A Mixed-System Wedding

August 19, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I recently shot a wedding that was special for two reasons; firstly it was my sister's wedding!  Secondly, it was the first where I used a combination of my Nikon system and the Fuji X-system to capture the images of the day.

 

Up until now Nikon full-frame has been my choice for wedding work due to the excellent quality Raw files, great low-light performance and dynamic range, plus an excellent flash system. I also have the focal lengths covered with lenses and have the excellent Profoto B1 500 watt/sec off-camera flash with TTL. An additional confidence boost comes from using the dual card slots for backup of the images on each camera. 

 

I have been gravitating toward Fuji X for all my day to day shooting and there are now many professionals shooting with Fuji so I have been considering a switch or partial switch for wedding work.  The reasons for not doing so to date are twofold....gaining confidence that the X-system can deliver the quality of files needed in all conditions from bright sunshine to gloomy lighting and the lack of truly all-round Fuji flash capability (off-camera TTL and Profoto TTL support).

 

I tend to work alone so having the ability to move about with my kit and get reliable on and off-camera flash is really important to me.  I know lots of shooters consider TTL flash to be a non-issue, but my experience has shown that clients do not want to wait around while the photographer does test exposures or meters to get the correct lighting.  TTL gives me huge flexibility in changing situations and when rapid changes of camera settings are made.  I can worry about catching moments and compositions in the time I would otherwise be fiddling with lighting.

 

On this occasion I had in mind two main kinds of image:

The more "set-up" group and couple shots, where I would use the Profoto B1 for dramatic lighting

Ceremony and events of the day shots where I would use Fuji X cameras to capture ambient light exposures or use some on-camera bounce flash indoors.

 

Conditions outside much of the day were sunny, which can be challenging, so the Profoto B1 could be used to improve upon the ambient lighting.  To avoid harsh shadows and highlights I tended to turn the subjects away from the sun, underexpose ambient light by between 1-2 stops and fire in the flash using a 2 foot Octa softbox from the Profoto OCF range.  Much of the time I shot in normal flash sync mode on the D800/600 at 1/250 sec but the strong ambient light required stopping down to between f9 and f13 to get the desired ambient exposure.

1/250 sec @ f11

20150806-_DSC561020150806-_DSC5610 Since late 2014 high speed sync has been available for Profoto Air TTL Nikon, via a firmware upgrade.  I used HSS for a number of shots as it can add a creative and unusual character to flash images.  The shooter is no longer bound by the normal sync speeds (typically 1/180-1/250) and can therefore increase shutter speed, thereby using the shutter speed to control ambient light to a much greater degree than normally possible. This allows use of a wide aperture and therefore a reduced depth of field in daylight flash images.  The Sigma 35mm Art lens is excellent for this kind of shot as the sharpness and contrast is stunning even at or near wide open aperture.

HSS 1/4000 sec @ f1.8

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Later in the day when the light settled into a softer evening type, the garden area of the hotel was in shadow but I took a few more portrait and couple shots, this time using the Fuji system and ambient light only.

 

As I was shooting I suddenly noticed the light changing and realised that an apartment block perhaps 100 metres away, was reflecting the setting sun onto the hotel garden and the couple.  It was giving a light similar to a gold reflector so I took the opportunity to get a few shots in before this brief situation vanished.

20150806-_DSF816220150806-_DSF8162 20150806-_DSF817520150806-_DSF8175 I used the Fuji cameras extensively for most of the "reportage" style shooting during the day as events unfolded and they performed well, catching focus readily and rapidly and delivering beautifully sharp and colourful jpg files out of camera.  The files look razor sharp but somehow handle skin tones and textures very delicately. I shot RAW alongside as a precaution and sometimes used the RAW when wishing to use a film simulation other than that I had originally shot with.  I can add whatever simulation I wish to the Raws later in Lightroom.  Despite shooting into bright daylight with a shadowed wedding ceremony hut/platform, the system was able to deliver a great dynamic range that did not struggle in retaining highlights and shadows.  Metering and white balance were excellent too and the system coped well indoors in an admittedly well-lit reception room.

Fuji 16mm f1.4 @ f8

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I have a little Fuji Instax 90 Neo Classic camera that pops out little credit card-sized instant prints and this gave me an idea.  I shot a snap of the couple during the reception and then got them to hold it in the evening sunlight at the front of the hotel for an unusual portrait.  I shot wide open on the Fujinon 56mm lens @ f1.2.

20150806-_DSF812620150806-_DSF8126

The 56 and 16mm f1.4 were the lenses I used most of the time on the Fuji bodies.  They just worked well at this particular location and are classic wedding lenses.

16mm f1.4 wide open

20150806-_DSF028020150806-_DSF0280 I did encounter an issue with wild TTL exposures on one Profoto head when shooting groups with the Nikon D800 and Sigma 35mm Art lens.  This problem disappeared when I switched to my second head.  Basically, in TTL the flash was massively underexposing, but if I switched it into manual mode at exactly the same energy level, the flash caused massive overexposure.  This is still unresolved.  It may have been a goofy moment, which high-tech electronics suffer from, or it could be a firmware or hardware issue that I need to test out.  I did contact Profoto support, who were very helpful and they recommended a controlled test shoot using both heads to see if the issue can be replicated.

 

I thought the Miramar Hotel did an excellent job of running the wedding.  It was classy but informal and fun, the food was excellent and the staff were very friendly and efficient in their service.  The hotel has a nice blend of Edwardian appearance and good service but never seems stuffy or ostentatious.  I enjoyed the day immensely despite working hard.

 

A very memorable bit of the day was sitting down (finally) with a coffee and a large piece of the delicious chocolate wedding cake on the terrace ouside.  I pretty much knew that I had the shots I needed in the bag and that others would be a bonus, so the pressure was off.  Never has coffee and cake tasted so good!

 

The day was a useful experience in determining how I feel about shooting weddings with both camera systems.  I actually liked the ability to produce quite different images from both systems and I would not have felt comfortable without a limited Nikon system, mainly it has to be said, due to the Profoto lighting support.  I simply could not work with the light in the same way with the current Fuji flash support and this is a big deal for me.  In other ways the Fuji cameras and lenses delivered big time and I would not hesitate to use them again.  I intend to trim down my Nikon system to give me the best it can offer, while offloading some kit I use less or am less satisfied with.

 

UPDATE 

Further tests after the wedding confirmed one of my Profoto B1 units was defective.  When in TTL it was firing but giving massive underexposure, but when switched to manual at the same output level, there was massive over exposure.  The issue was intermittent and relatively mild at first, but then got worse and finally the unit went off like a shotgun and scared the neighbours!

I took it to Luminary Lighting in London, where it was fixed under warranty and then returned to me in just a few days....excellent service.

 


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