Photographing Rob’s and Camille’s Farm Wedding

Bride and dogs

Exchanging rings

wedding vows with dog

Groomsmen & Dogs

wedding party

Resting after the wedding


When Camille called and said, “Rob and I are getting married. Would you be our photographer?” I didn’t hesitate for a minute and replied, “Yes!” I think I added something like, “Its about time.” I knew it would be fun, relaxed, unusual, and I was absolutely sure they would be as non-traditional as possible.

These days I shy away from taking on the job of wedding photographer, only making myself available for those weddings that seem fun. I figure I have paid my dues when it comes to wedding photographer. It used to be that by spring I anticipated I’d be pointing my camera at excited couples every weekend till Thanksgiving. Those days are behind me and now I just pick and choose to photograph people I know or people that know people I know.

So I packed two camera bodies, a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm lens with a couple of flashes and set out for their rural farm down-the-road-a-piece from here at Monte Lake. I think they would have held the ceremony on the lake, but finding space between the boats, the trailers, and the campers this time of year is hard.

Rob had set up two large seating areas, one under a very large tarp and the other in an open-sided tent of the type the big stores use when they have a sale on furniture or something large. I said their wedding would be a fun, relaxed, unusual, non-traditional and will add that by the time I arrived the partying guests had spread out across much of the property.

I’ll begin with all the shiny, big, loud-engined, large-tires with fancy rims kind of trucks with floorboards several feet off the ground that just kept rolling in honking and parking anywhere that wasn’t occupied by seemingly out-of-place cars like my little Honda, while at the same time Harley Davidson motorcycles were arriving and arriving. Add to that several very young drivers, zooming back and forth on quads, and little dirt bikes, greeting those guests as they got out of their trucks and off their motorcycles.

And dogs, I had to get around to the dogs. I knew Rob and Camille had four or five, but there were others running around and more waited for their owners to open their truck tailgates so they could join the festivities.

Several young men filled a horse-watering trough with beer, pop, bottled water, and ice. And as they arrived people would take food to tables in the center of a big truck garage. I would expect nothing different as Rob and Camille do like a party and all I had to do was point my camera any direction and watch the fun and enjoyment

As everyone walked though the meadow to rows of white chairs set up for ceremony, low clouds rolled in warning us all to beware of coming events with a sprinkle or two of rain and with the knowledge it was going to get darker, I selected ISO 800 on my camera. I also had an extra handkerchief ready in my pocket to wipe the rain off my camera and flash to keep it dry to prevent shorting the electronic circuits.

Weddings usually start the same. The guests sit in anticipation, with the groom at the front, waiting for the arrival of the bride. Then the bridesmaids come walking in, and the bride enters arm and arm with her father.

In Rob and Camille’s case, the groom was waiting at the front with his dog and the bride walked up with her father flanked by her two very large mastiffs and in the distance some horses and a calf watched. And folks this was unrehearsed. The dogs did what they did on their own.

Guests were capturing the event with their cell phones. I recalled a time when I had the only single lens reflex camera at a wedding. It seems history was repeating itself and technology has marched on and again I had the only SLR.

The wedding ceremony photographs included dogs. The minister; a “new age religion type” tried to keep everything solemn, speaking of love and commitment, but thanks to those very interested in being part of everything dogs, there was a lot of laughing.

I dialed down my flash (Readers know I always use flash.) to balance the diminishing light and shot the ceremony, dogs and all, did the obligatory family photos, and the bridal party leaning on a rail fence pictures. Then a cool breeze wandered in and the rain gods decided it was time to get things wet and opened the floodgates for the rain and the rest of my day was left to making a documentary of their friends at the party eating and getting wet by the bonfire.

The day at Rob and Camille’s was a perfect way to end the week. A great wedding with friendly and enjoyable people, a fun party, big shiny trucks and flashy motorcycles to look at, lots of animals and of course the kind of event any photographer would enjoy.

As always, I really appreciate all comments. Thanks, John

My website is at



One more outdoor lighting workshop.

A. An outdoor studio  B. Workshop participants  C. Adding light  D. Outdoor shooting  E. Softbox by the buggy  F. Thumbs up  G. Outdoor with softbox  H. Ladder and reflector  I. Got it.  J. Portraits in the barn  K. Gold reflector  L. Umbrella in the barn

I’ll begin with a quote from an interview with American photographer, and author of the lighting blog, David Hobby. “…You hear a photographer say, “I’m a strictly available light photographer, I’m a purist…”. What “I hear is, “I’m scared of using light so I’m going to do this instead.”…. Well, for me lighting was a way to start to create interesting pictures in a way that I could do it…”

 I wish I had read that interview with Mr. Hobby before I began my series of workshops on off-camera flash. I would have started every class with his quote. With that, I thought I would let readers know about the last day of what became an enjoyable and successful day for everyone, the photographers, our model Danya, and me.

Unlike the last session’s stormy overcast weather, the day this time was warm, sunny, and we didn’t have to contend with a cold, constant breeze. However, I couldn’t have asked for two better learning environments. An overcast day demands different lighting techniques than those that accompany a bright, cloudless day, and all I had to do was present the participants with opportunities specific to each so they could begin experimenting, and learning how to effectively use off-camera flash.

In the first session I introduced the ten participating photographers to basic outdoor portrait photography, and off-camera flash techniques that would help them transform their outdoor portraits into something special.

This time I continued by putting together different lighting setups. In the meadow, I erected a backdrop, and placed a 4×6 foot light diffusion panel with a wireless flash to one side. The second set up was a lean-to that used a 4×6 light diffusion panel. For the third set up, I placed in the barn a softbox and a bare flash on stands. I also left extra wireless flashes on stands and a few reflectors outside the studio, ready for photographers to use when they wanted to select their own location.

My goal was to give participants plenty of options as they put into practice what they had learned about adding flash to natural light.

We positioned the 10×12 foot backdrop, made out of an old painter’s drop cloth, so it blocked the sun and swathed our model in diffused light, and then fired a flash through a diffusion panel placed on the left.

The lean-to was constructed with a diffusion panel on one side. It softened the sunlight, giving a subject a diffused glow that could easily be manipulated with a reflector or flash.

The softbox was perfect for the open shade in the barn. The large metal-sided barn gave lots of room and an interesting patterned backdrop. In that location the softbox, a flash and umbrella, and a reflector were used.

I always use a flash when I am photographing people, inside or out. I can’t control the lights in a large room, or the sun shining on my subject from 93 million miles away. Participants discovered how to control the light they added from small off-camera flashes in the natural ambient light, and by the end of the workshop were using flash effectively, and learning about creating and controlling shadows rather than just filling them.

We live in a time when cameras can almost see in the dark, and the art of adding light to a scene is under-appreciated. Those photographers ready and willing to turn down that ISO dial and learn about off-camera flash are beginning a journey of discovery that will remind them that photography is all about light. And I expect they might finally ask themselves, why not try to have the most perfect light possible…and instead of waiting for that perfect light, learn to control that light by adding flash to make the best of the situation.

I really appreciate comments. Thanks, John

My website is at




Leading an Outdoor Lighting Photography Workshop

Adding light  Bailea & Flash  Big lenses  Participants  Sarah lighting Bailea  Model in the meadow  Hide from the wind  Flash & Reflector  Low angle shot  Didya get it

I always enjoy the enlivened interaction that happens when a student of photography makes the decision to participate. During a workshop my job is to present information on the subject, and keep things going. I don’t like to be a demonstrator on stage and rarely pick up a camera during the workshops I lead. That is left to the participants.

Those are the words I used when I was discussing the first of two workshops I am leading this spring on the use of off-camera lighting. The first two-day workshop was about lighting in a studio and was held in a well-equipped photography location where I introduced how different lighting tools are used for portrait photography.

I have now finished the first of a two-session outdoor lighting workshop where the participants were surprised when faced with using many of those same lighting tools outside.

This workshop was about using light out-of-doors and I think returning participants were struck with how straight forward lighting is inside compared to outside. In the studio one synchronizes the camera’s shutterspeed to the studio flash and uses the aperture to determine the exposure of the light reflecting off a subject. However, out-of-doors a photographer is faced with additional variables and must balance the natural ambient light with an off-camera flash, and when using flash effectively it is more about creating and controlling shadows than filling them.

The weather was not willing to co-operate very much. It had rained all night and although the day brightened up some, a cold breeze from fresh snow in the mountains made us shiver when it wandered through our workshop space every now and then. Nonetheless, crappy weather or sunny days, it’s all about adding light, so in spite of the cool damp weather, the ten participating photographers and our intrepid model, Bailea, defiantly (maybe hopefully is a better word) stepped out of the warm studio and into the constantly changing light of day.

In this lighting workshop we dealt with the key aspects of outdoor portrait photography, such as understanding exposure, how photographers would learn to control depth of field, and to gain off-camera flash techniques that would transform their outdoor portraits into something special. And, as with my last workshop, there was excitement as participants got down to business and weren’t at all shy about getting shoulder to shoulder in a process of experimenting with and exploring outdoor lighting.

I had off-camera wireless flash setups in three locations, a large barn, a meadow beside a turn of the century horse buggy, and in the long grass where an old abandoned Cadillac rested. The photographers put each location to good use, and now I am looking forward to the next session. The few images I have seen so far are excellent and I am certain spending another day helping and watching each photographer’s progress is going to be a lot of fun.

Comments? I do like all comments. Thanks, John

My website is at



Vancouver Canada, Camera Show and Swap Meet

At the swap meet  Swap meet deals  Dave at swap  Another good deal  Photo equipemtn for sale  Check a camera

The clock on the stove signaled 7am and I heard the sound of my friend, Peter getting out of his truck in front of the house. I had my car ready as it was idling on the cold morning, and we jumped in and left for the hour-long drive to meet up with two more photographer friends, Dave and Pat at Dave’s place.

A bit over three hours later we had stopped for coffee in Merritt, driven across the scenic, mountainous and snow lined Coquihalla summit, driven through rain as we passed Hope, crossed the Fraser river into the warm coastal city of Burnaby and were parking across the street from the Cameron Recreation Center that was hosting one of my favorite events each year, The Vancouver Camera Show & Swap meet.

I will say the four of us were pretty excited. We had talked about the trip for weeks and had just driven for three hours talking about photography the whole way and now were walking into a large hall filled with photography equipment, all for sale.

Put on by the Western Canada Photographic Historic Association, and organized by Siggi and Brigitte Rohde, this long-running show has now reached its 38th show and makes the claim of being the largest in Canada with, I think, about 120 tables. And when I talked to the fellow at the door later that day, he thought well over 1,000 people had walked through the doors.

Yes, we were excited as we gazed at the crush of people. Hmm, maybe it was a congregation and we were entering some chapel filled with the faithful. Anyway, as soon as we walked in, Peter yelled, “see ya later” and headed off disappearing into the crowd and Pat and I started looking in earnest for a 60mm macro lens that he could mount on his new camera. I noticed Dave in deep discussion with a couple of photographers he had just met at a table packed with Canon gear.

The event was, as usual, well attended with all types of photographers from all walks of life. Photography, after all, is enjoyed and practiced by men and women of all ages and all cultures and I can safely say every demographic was there.

I have been attending The Vancouver Canada Camera Show and Swap for over twenty years and that was evident with all the familiar faces and constant catching up with people I only knew from this occasion each year. I even stopped to talk and congratulate the organizer, Siggi Rohde on another successful show. He mentioned how some people had wondered as far back as 1992 when the first one was held if a camera swap meet could be successful.

Well, the proof this year was in all the smiling photographers cradling gear in their arms as they wandered to the next table to purchase that one more “must have” item. I have always found the secret is to buy a camera bag in which to put stuff. And what about my friends, Dave, Pat and Peter? Dave decided against the lens he had checked out, but grabbed a neat photography vest, Pat found the 60mm macro lens he wanted, and Peter ended up with a Fuji 6×9 film camera. Oh, and although I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, I did find a great deal on a manual Yongnuo flash that will fit in perfectly in my off-camera flash kit and just for fun, bought an almost new camera bag with “Nikon” boldly sewn on the top. However, Pat talked me out of it on the drive home.

Now another Vancouver Camera Swap meet has come and gone and I am left with memories of how much I enjoyed myself. Truth be known, I could go without a cent in my pocket and still have a great time, but who wants to do that? I really enjoy all comments. Thanks, John My website is at