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On the Top of the World

There is no question that Steamboat Springs, Colorado is a stunning place to have a wedding. Whether it be summer or winter, the views, the vistas and the sights are breathtaking. For this couple, the Four Points Lodge was especially important, as they not only met there, but decided to have their wedding there as well.

Shooting their wedding video on the top of the world presented a unique set of exceptional challenges. The first was the venue itself, simply getting the camera and gear package all the way to the top of the mountain meant driving it up really steep dirt roads, securing road permits and calling ahead since the road was one lane only. Then once at the top, the visual challenges kicked in, with the quality of the light constantly changing as the sun moves across the sky and the compositional challenges you face with the fact that you are above principle treeline.

And then the most serious challenge was the actual wedding ceremony itself, facing due west into the setting sun, heavily backlit with an extreme contrast range. How are you to capture the essence of this, while maintaining proper exposure and color tonality? This is where experience really comes into play. The two most important factors in this shoot is to maintain color (or white) balance and careful framing to maximize cross lighting to create depth.

White balance had to be set and reset a dozen times and most especially immediately before the ceremony started. Using my white balance card with the camera pointed away from the sun (i.e., over the shoulder) is the only way to get an accurate reflective light reading. In this shot you can also see how the eyebrow of the matte box is used to cut stray light reflections into the lens.

And with the exposure set for the skin tones of the couple and neutral density filters to pare the light down, the idea is to fill the frame with the couple and reduce the percentage of the shot with back-lighting. As luck would have it, the glass of the lodge itself reflected back into the shadows creating a very nice fill light. It you didn't have this advantage, you would need to set up at least a 1K light with daylight filter or even an 575 HMI to fill in those shadows. Setting up that kind of light, in this environment is a real luxury when shooting a wedding photojournalistically.

When your background is that heavily backlit, a second camera on the side in a profile position can really make your video easier to watch. plus it does wonders for your color. Experience matters, and for this couple whose wedding was shot on top of the world, that experience will make a world of difference in their wedding video.

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