29 December 2008

The good, bad and ugly of wedding photography

*Phew!* It's been a long weekend, covering Geoffrey and Joyce's wedding as an official wedding videographer (Elaine did the videography for them while in Sibu). The good news (for me) is that they seem to like the videos which we put together just in time for their wedding dinner, which always feels nice.

For the wedding, Geoff actually bought a brand new Sony HDR-SR12 AVCHD camcorder - so i could use it to shoot his wedding and so he can take it along for his honeymoon after. It's actually a pretty good camcorder, though a little slow to start up and requiring a wide-angle conversion lens to make it useful for event videography.

The Sony HDR-SR12: Pretty good...

Anyway, I've learnt a few things from this experience:

1. It's actually FASTER to deal with AVCHD, hard disk-based camcorders than old-fashioned DV camcorders (provided you've got a powerful Mac and the correct software). With my own tape-based DV camcorder, i need to stream the entire tape onto my Mac before I can start editing. So if i've shot two hours of video, that's TWO hours of waiting for the video to transfer onto my Mac.

But on a hard disk-based AVCHD camcorder, i only need to select the clips i want and my Mac will transfer the files, transcoding them into an editable format - in this case, about an hour of video takes and hour to transcode, which sounds the same as a DV camcorder but the difference is that i transfer ONLY what i want.

2. Apple iMovie '08 isn't as bad as some people make it out to be. If you didn't know, Apple did the unthinkable in 2007 by throwing out its very popular iMovie HD video editing software, and replaced it with iMovie '08, which had a completely different user interface and removed a lot of core features.

Anyway, apart from the absence of special effects such as slow-motion or soft-focus filters, iMovie '08 is pretty good. For starters, it's bloody fast. All text titles, colour correction and transitions are applied in real time, which is great because you don't have to wait for it to render before you can view the results.

And if you're upset about the lack of a traditional video timeline, don't be - the new system is far quicker for scanning through hours of video and cutting things into the correct sequence. I've never cut together a video faster than this, and I certainly didn't expect HD video editing to be this quick.

The only other thing that bothers me is the loss of finer audio level controls and the hack-ish manner to get multiple titles appearing on the same video clip. Other than that, it's brilliant.

3. Videography is a lot more tiring than photography, simply because you have to hold the camera up for a lot longer, and you have to plan in advance whether you've got enough battery power left, whether you want the camera mounted on a tripod and whether you should be at spot A or spot B to get a better shot.

The difference to normal photography is that you can't run to a new spot, take a shot, and run back - you need to spend at least five seconds at a spot to have useable footage, anything shorter may be too abrupt or may not leave you enough room to edit fades, wipes or to fill in gaps in your video.

Also, you sometimes cannot afford to stop filming because you may miss something - which is a problem if you've mounted the camera on a tripod and suddenly have to move the camera while recording.

An obvious solution would be to simply employ another videographer, but that isn't always a good idea because video camcorders are very expensive (the Sony HDR-SR12 i was using costs about RM5000, not including spare batteries and wide-angle lens converters), and that you may end up with TWICE the amount of video to go through. And videos take up far more space on your computer than JPEG photos.

The other problem is that, with two videographers, you're already adding to the array of photographers during an event, which can be annoying to people attending the event, or even your subjects (especially at weddings). And you'll inevitably get in the way of one another, which nicely brings me to my next point:

4. Digital photography seems to have spawned a new species of subhumans - the unofficial wedding photographer. While I definitely condone friends and family taking photos of the bridal couple during a wedding, 'just in case' the official photographers don't get a shot, anybody who is not an official photographer / videographer must abide by one golden rule:

Never, EVER, get in the way of the official photographers. Take this dude in the red shirt for example:

"Look at me! I'm hogging all the best spots"

This particular idiot was in may way most of the time. Now, I've taken photos at loads of events before (what, being a former journalist and all), and I usually ended up in situations where there are plenty of photographers from different publications, and only one good angle to take a shot. The common thing to do here would be to take a shot at that spot, and then vacate it immediately so that another photographer has a chance. It's common courtesy.

At Geoff's wedding, the two hired official photographers were very courteous to me (the lone videographer) and I'd like to think I got out of their way as much as I could. After all, it's not a competition - we're trying to get shots that Geoff and Joyce would like. I understood that if i didn't give room to the photographer, the wedding couple would not get a shot from that particular angle. And the official photographers understood that, if they didn't give me room, nobody else would get the video footage at that particular angle either. It's a give-and-take situation and we all try to help each other out.

ON THE OTHER HAND, the idiot in the red shirt was HOGGING the good spots. He'd stand there, get a shot and then REVIEW HIS PHOTOS while taking up that precious spot, instead of getting out of the way. There were already TWO official photographers covering the action, the wedding couple certainly didn't need another photographer shooting photos that the professionals would have gotten anyway.

What's worse was that he was taking up precious space when the bridal couple was exchanging vows, rings and lifting the veil. I already had my camcorder mounted on a tripod, so I could stretch it over the two official photographers and film the couple without getting in their way (sort of like a robotic arm).

And because the red-shirted idiot was in my way, i couldn't lower my camcorder to the intended height to shoot the video. This was the result:

This is what happens when overly helpful photographer friends get in the way of a videographer

Well, this wouldn't be a problem if there was another videographer at the wedding... BUT WAIT, I WAS the only videographer at the wedding. So what does it mean? Well, Geoffrey and Joyce have about 5 extra photos of him lifting her veil, but no VIDEO of it. Thanks a lot, you red-shirted idiot - i'm sure the wedding couple would love to thank you for that.

And here's another example of his stupidity...

Take note of the three photographers in front of the bridal couple - only the one on the far right is an official photographer

Look, there is only one angle to shoot a bridal recessional, and that's from the front of the couple as they are walking out. The red-shirted fool decided to stand next to the official photographer and shoot the same shot from the same angle. WHY THE HELL FOR??? It's not like his photos are going to be any better than the official ones - they're from the same bloody angle!!!

Why the hell hog more space? As a result, I had to move BEHIND them (which isn't so bad), and the official photographer could not get a photo from the middle of the aisle either, since he was pushed to the right by that idiot.

I'll tell you why the red-shirted idiot did that. If he's anything like most gear-heads these days (me included), it because he just bought himself a DSLR and wants to "try out" wedding photography since it's the trendy thing to do these days and since digital photography itself is a cool new hobby.

"I know... I'll EXPERIMENT during Geoffrey and Joyce's wedding!!! That way, I'll get to hone my wedding photography skills! And then, I'll get to post up all the photos on Facebook and people will be rushing to tell me what a great photographer i am," thought the red-shirted idiot.

Selfish bastard...

22 December 2008

4 more months...

Boy, this is one long overdue update...


Roughly five months ago, I came home from work and was greeted by a smiling Elaine. I asked what's up but all she did was gesture towards the bathroom. Once there, I wondered why I had been gestured into a bathroom. Elaine then gestured towards the floor.

I then looked down and saw a little blue dish, which contained what looked, and smelt, like pee. And in the what-looked-and-smelt-like-pee, lay a white paper strip with two little blue lines.

The blue dish

I looked up at Elaine.

Elaine looked back.

I looked down at the blue lines again.

The blue lines looked back.

I looked up at Elaine again.

“Erm... what does this mean?” I asked.

“Well, one line means I'm not pregnant,” she replied.

And at that exact moment, I probably ran through an entire laundry list of emotions simultaneously, which is normally a very hard thing for me to do – considering how bad I am at multi-tasking. Happiness, anxiety, excitement, concern, shock, dread, anticipation and probably more but we'll stop there for now.

The happiness is because I love kids. I've always gotten along with my younger cousins and my little sisters and I've always loved teaching younger people stuff – at the risk of sounding like a cranky old man, giving unsolicited advice.

The anxiety is because I'm a worry wart. We had just celebrated Elaine's birthday a couple of days before and had finished off a bottle of wine, which is supposed to be bad for featuses. Have we taken enough precautions for pregnancy? Vitamins? Supplements? Will the baby be healthy? Will it be a trouble-free pregnancy? Is she really pregnant or is the pregnancy test kit inaccurate?

The excitement, of course, is because Elaine and I are going to be parents! We'll have a child and he / she is ours – a sign of our love. We'll raise him / her, watch him / her grow. We'll be a family.

The concern was because I had no idea what Elaine was thinking at that point in time. At that point in time, we had been married for only 3 months. So yes, we are stereotypical Catholics, then. Was she happy too? Or did she think it was too soon for us to get a kid? Was she ready to have kids?

Eager beavers (at the waiting area in SJMC)

The shock was because we didn't think it would've been so easy to conceive. Just remember, if anybody tells you that it's hard to get pregnant, that you can “do it” a few times without protection and it'll be ok. Before you jump to conclusions, Elaine and I WERE trying for a kid, but we were told by our doctor that, due to a surgery that Elaine recently had and because of some other medical condition, it might be hard for us to get a child. We were expecting to be trying for at least six months or a year before we'd succeed.

The dread, of course, is because Elaine and I are going to be parents... We'll have a child and he / she is ours – which means that we'll have to take care of him / her – 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the first few years. That means no more holidays or carefree afternoons. Everything we do will have some sort of impact on his / her life so we'll have to be good examples.

Boy, I sure wish we already knew what gender our child is so I wouldn't have to keep typing “him / her”.

Elaine getting a checkup

The anticipation is in wondering what our kid will look like. Will he/she have mommy's intense eyes? Will he/she have daddy's potato-shaped head? His giant nostrils? The anticipation is also in wondering what he/she will be like. Will he/she be athletic or a geek? Or both? Will he/she be rebelious or obedient? The do-er or the one who watches from the sidelines.

Ok, so I didn't think about all of these things in that two-or-three-second moment before I blurted to Elaine, asking her if she was happy, whether this was what we wanted before I broke into a smile. A happy, anxious, excited, concerned, shocked, drearful and anticipation-filled smile. But a smile, nonetheless.

My spawn... (at 14 weeks)

Fast forward to the present and Elaine's now 5 months pregnant and still puking her guts out everyday, throughout the day. Whoever called it 'morning' sickness had quite a sense of humour. And before you go “Oh, but it's supposed to end after the first trimester”, TRUST US, it can carry on well after.

And in other news, the little bump in her abdomen is just large enough to suggest that something the size of a grapefruit has taken up residence in her uterus. We're slightly past the halfway mark, now and are already stocking up on various paraphenelia (a big thank you to all who have contributed tons of hand-me-downs).

Now if we only knew what gender he/she is so we could start painting rooms and buying color-coded clothes. Or we could dress him/her up in old potato sacks.