SECOND SHOOTING A WEDDING WITH JASON LANIER // STETTENFELS CASTLE, STUTTGART, GERMANY
SECOND SHOOTING A WEDDING WITH JASON LANIER AT THE STETTENFELS CASTLE, STUTTGART, GERMANY
Arrival Dinner with the Workshop Attendees
We arrive to Stuttgart at approximately 8:00 PM, we had one hour until we needed to meet the workshop attendees for dinner. Perfect timing we thought. Introductions occurred and we found ourselves getting to know one another over a delightful dish of pasta.
During dinner, Jason shared the order of events that were going to occur over the next two days. The first day of the workshop, we planned for the engagement shoot and day two consisted of a full thirteen-hour real wedding workshop bootcamp! Fun fact - slacks in Germany means jeans. If anyone knows the word to describe the happy medium between jeans and a suit, please enlighten us!!
The Engagement Shoot
9:00 AM bright and early, Jason and I head to the castle to meet the workshop attendees. We set up gear and formally greet the bride and groom. Jason synched our cameras and provided me with gear different from his (i.e. he used a wide angle, while I shot with the zoom lens). For consistency purposes, Jason asked that I maintained the white balance. He also asked for me to photograph at a different angle to capture an alternate look. Jason’s 11 essential tips video for lead and second shooters - provides tips and suggestions to optimize performance when working with a second shooter. For more information, I encourage you to check it out.
After the engagement shoot, we all gathered for lunch at the castle and took a moment to relax. We shared laughs during mealtime and participated in rich conversations. Jason practiced his German and somehow “schnitzel” turned into a word of endearment. I’m still not sure exactly what is inside a schnitzel; however, it was described to me as thinly pounded meat (i.e. pork, chicken, or beef) that was breaded and fried. There is never a dull moment when dining with Jason.
Jason’s Real Wedding Workshop, Stettenfels Castle
It was a sunny Saturday morning filled with blue skies and puffy clouds. From the moment I opened my eyes, I had a grin from ear to ear. I’m certain I looked like a kid in a candy store, but could you blame me? Today was a really really special day for me, my first wedding. And this wasn’t any wedding, I had the opportunity to be a second shooter with the man who inspires me most in an 11th-century castle! Was it luck? Was I dreaming? No- most certainly not. It was realer than ever and I can not wait to share it with you.
The Angry Hotel Owner
The start of the shoot initiated at the bride’s hotel where Jason and I met the workshop attendees. Upon entry, we stumbled into a pleasant elderly couple eating breakfast. The couple immediately stood up and quickly introduced themselves as the owners. The owners expressed displeasure with the amount of photographers present. The bride was late to the hotel so we kindly stood outside and waited for her arrival. About 45 minutes passed and the bride arrived. She attempted to repair communication with the hotel owners; however, they were still uninterested in accommodating eleven photographers. Jason attempted to problem solve and proposed the idea of three photographers entering the building at a time. The owner was not in agreement. As expected, the bride’s emotions elevated and thoughtfully the workshop attendees agreed to meet at the castle. Jason, a volunteer and I remained onsite and photographed the bride getting ready in the hotel.
The room was a soft blue, full of beautiful windows, and open space. Jason and I removed unpleasant decor and set the room up for simplicity. The bride pulled out her dress and we were in complete awe. We hung her gown on a curtain rod so it was centered with the door. Man, did it glow. We shot the dress a few times and then stepped out while the bride and maid of honor put on their dresses. Talk about stunning; Miriam looked flawless in her gown. She was absolutely wonderful to photograph. In the moment, I actually felt confident. My main focus here was to build rapport with the bride to facilitate comfort and success for the rest of the day’s events.
After that shoot, Jason and I grabbed a very quick bite to eat. I told him I was good; however, he convinced me to grab something as we had a full 13 hour day ahead. Due to the language barrier, the person in the drive through requested we order face to face. Here we go again, more gestures, I thought to myself and smiled. A LOT of ice, Jason ordered. Well, a lot of ice in America fills about 32 oz glass and a lot of ice in Europe equates to about three cubes. After unsuccessfully getting our message across we came to a point where we just asked anything they had to offer - I mean we are in their country speaking English. No need to make a stink.
With full bellies, we arrived at the Stettenfels Castle ready to rock. We briefly touched base with the workshop attendees and Jason shared his game plan. We quickly toured the castle and observed adequate vantage points both up and downstairs. When we were upstairs, Jason described my task, “photograph the groom’s expression as he first witnesses the bride”. I was in agreement and expressed understanding. Jason walked away and before I knew it a workshop attendee said, “SHE’S HERE!”. Now, this is where I felt nervous. I completely blanked as to where I was supposed to be. I reiterated the directions in my head (i.e. “shoot upstairs, come downstairs to the left, and go back up stairs). The directions were clear, I repeated to myself what to do, but for some reason it all felt wrong! I ran up and down the stairs twice by the time the bride had got down the aisle. I’m actually grateful Jason wasn’t around to see me act like a chicken with my head cut off. I get back downstairs, find Jason and he calmly tells me to go to the left side. By this time, I’m all flustered and I capture about four shots of the groom and the “best” image had flaws (i.e. slightly blown out and I cut off the arch). “Uh-oh,” I thought to myself. My throat felt dry and my hands were clammy - and clammy isn’t great when you try to shoot one handed with a 70-200mm, like the boss. Jason smiled, and I carried on to shoot the rest of the ceremony.
Group Shots and a Late Cake
After the ceremony, we had a slight break before group shots. I sat on the bench and expressed the disappointment I had in myself to Jason. I showed him the shots and he just smiled. The bride’s sister-in-law gathered the group, and before I knew it, we were on to the next. Looking a little glum, Jason expressed it was a learning experience, confirmed it was okay, and asked me to get out of my head. I then realized that that was one of many shoots today, so being present was imperative.
Group shots initiated and my next task was to capture people’s genuine smiles (i.e. documenting laughter, family expressions, guests, etc). This was much easier for me and allowed me to clear my brain and relax. One aspect learned about documenting expression was really influenced through the art of humor. Jason’s calm demeanor and phenomenal communication skills made it really easy to engage the audience. Most often older couples stood a little further apart from one another. When this occurred, Jason used a fantastic line. He asked, “are you guys married?”; and immediately the group would laugh and BAM, I snapped their true expression. This moment really highlighted how important it is to connect with your subjects. If it wasn’t for the connection piece - I’d never been able to capture such sincere emotions. This shoot definitely helped build my confidence again.
Next on the itinerary was to photograph the cake. Unfortunately, the bride’s sister-in-law expressed to me that the cake had not yet arrived, classic. This poor bride experienced a series of unfortunate events after another. To lighten the mood, Jason reassured her that we were getting awesome shots. Once the cake arrived, we captured the first cut and waited for the guests to finish eating before proceeding to the couple’s shoot.
The Couple's Shoot
It was time for the couple’s shoot and approximately six hours passed; we were all ready for dinner. Food was definitely motivating because I felt myself becoming hangry. To me, the couple’s shoot was most exciting. I wanted to be totally present with a clear head to optimize creativity. I couldn’t let the exhaustion get the best of me so I did my best to power through. We had this beautiful bride and groom at a gorgeous location with optimal weather conditions, all to ourselves for a whopping hour and a half. How incredible!
Jason again expressed his desire for me to shoot something different than him. He provided me with gear that varied from his and I did my best to capture a different perspective. Not only was I able to do that, I had opportunity to learn posing in a gown. Jason had me manipulate the bride’s gown and veil. I really felt great adjusting her dress and making sure it looked appealing. It’s so important to be careful and delicate when manipulating the bride’s clothes. We were lucky enough to have a large chunk of time for the couple’s shoot; Jason shared that that typically isn’t the case. Given a shoot with limited time, I can imagine a photographer trying to rush and adjust the gown and veil much quicker. Well, rushing could lead to pulling and more abrupt movements. My takeaway was, continue to remind yourself to slow down and recognize that the bride and groom are people first before they are subjects. Your energy is transferred to them. Handle with care and stay calm.
A little trick I found that helped with the veil shots was: when raising it in the air, slightly bring it down before letting it go (i.e. almost to fill it with air like a parachute). This appeared to help keep the veil’s body in the shots. Another take away I practiced was related to communication. Quite a few bystanders were enjoying the castle’s view. I kindly asked them to step out of the frame. If this was approached in a rude manner, it’s likely they wouldn’t have moved and Jason would have spent much more time trying to edit them out. So - be friendly guys; be gentle and friendly!
Phew - the couple’s shoot ended and it was time to break for dinner. I’m so thankful Jason required a meal and a break during the event. It really was imperative so we could all keep the creativity flowing. Refreshed after dinner, it was time for ring shots.
The bride and groom had misplaced their ring pillow so Jason asked me to improvise. I looked for items that contained their names (i.e. programs, glasses etc). I asked them if they had any preferable mementos they wanted to include in the shots and collected some ribbon, bouquets, and a dish full of lovely stones and ground up glass. I met Jason and the group outside and he looked through my items. We set up camp on a picnic table outside and illuminated the night with two neo 2s. Jason matted the setup with a wedding program and dumped the glass stones overtop with such finesse. He set up the rings using the groom’s as a base and the bride’s diamond served as the apex. I held a neo 2 in place while Jason captured the stunning image with his macro lens. Once he got his shot, he shared his macro with the workshop attendees and provided opportunity for them to photograph something similar for their portfolios.
10:00 PM or 22:00 approached and it was time for the dance. A volunteer shined the Westcott halo held with a neo 2 on the bride and groom. We photographed the first dance, the dance with the parents, and the live band. The night concluded and we captured a few more shots in the hall. The bride and groom expressed their pleasure and we thanked them in return. Next, Jason and I packed up, took a group selfie and sent the workshop attendees home. “Another successful event in the books”, he shared.
Overall, I was absolutely honored to work as a second shooter alongside Jason at my very first wedding. Before I took this position, I referred to myself as someone who photographs. It was on this wedding day that Jason introduced me as a photographer. And to me that had been the most fulfilling aspect yes. Jason, I am so proud to stand by your side. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity of a lifetime. Learning from you will undoubtedly be one of the most rewarding accomplishments of my life.