Fun summer engagement photos

In the past few weeks I've been pleased to spend time with several very fun couples making engagement portraits in the DC area. For me this is one of the best parts of the wedding photography process, because I get to be with couples without all the time-pressure (and emotional pressure, too) of the wedding day, and we often get in to situations that would never occur when everyone is all dressed up.
This is Krupa and her fiancé, Ronak. I first met Krupa around 17 years ago when my wife and I moved in next door to her family. Best neighbors we've ever had. Sadly they've moved away now, but only by a few miles. When I learned Krupa was engaged I could scarcely believe it, because I still think of her as a kid in junior high. As a present to celebrate her engagement, we got together at Ronak's house one very hot afternoon.
These photos were actually made at the end of our time together shooting. Krupa had seen the idea of using water balloons in a magazine somewhere and had filled about five or six of them as a possible photo prop. But we realized pretty quickly that those were going to be used up in just a few seconds, and for any decent water fight we needed gallons, not ounces. The hose came out, and that's when the real fun started. Plus it helped them cool off on one of those not-so-rare 90-plus degrees days.
It was actually in December of last year when Matt's mother contacted me, wanting to give an engagement portrait session to her son and his bride-to-be, Lauren. Because he's finishing up post-graduate work, it was some months before we could all get together out at a nice winery in the Virginia countryside. 

When we met up at Bluemont Vineyards west of Leesburg, conditions didn't look entirely promising. Rain was in the forecast, and I spent quite a bit of time preparing special neoprene covers for my gear so I could keep cameras and lenses dry while letting Lauren and Matt slog through the downpour. Fortunately, though, the rain held off just long enough for us to make some fun pictures, and the soft overcast light created a nice mood. The tasty bottle of Viognier didn't hurt, either.

Back in the Leesburg area for another shoot with Mary and Brian, we met fairly early in the day in order to beat the summer heat. It was a good thing, too, because it was in the 90's when we finally wrapped up and it kept on getting hotter. But we had some pleasant breezes and a very pretty morning as we trekked around Merriweather Manor, where they held their wedding celebration.
The image below was the photo they selected for the big print to show off at the wedding. Mary loved the giant tree looming over them as they strolled along. She had picked up some flowers in the meadow during our morning together, and they made a nice accent to the scene.
You may notice that all the photos above were made with longer lenses. Lately I've been shying away from my wide angle lenses for portraits and opting for the compression and separation you can get when shooting closer to the telephoto end. Most commonly I'm using my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 for portraits, though sometimes I bring along my 300mm f/4 if I really want to have extra weight on my shoulders. The 300 really is wonderfully crisp, though: the only downside being that I have a little less flexibility in composition as my subjects move around, so that's why the 70-200 is the lens I rely on the most for these situations. 
But there are times when it works using a wider lens, particularly when you have a big sweeping vista like the one above to show off. I really loved the texture of the tall grasses, and they seemed to go on forever. The owner of the manor, Andrew, told me that people sometimes ask why he doesn't mow it down, and he tells them that he thinks it just looks too nice to put it to the blade. 

And I did play with shooting very wide when Krupa and Ronak started their engagement photo session. Both of them, they told me, are just big kids at heart, and one of the things they enjoy doing is playing on the swings in the playground near his house. So I got up on just about the top step of his fancy ladder from Costco and leaned out as far as I dared while they swung up on either side of me. They had fun, but it turned out that I didn't see the sort of motion effect I was looking for, and it also happened that whenever they were close enough to me and their arcs were somewhat synched up that they ended up being on the outside edges of the frame. What I probably needed to do was to get up much higher and shoot longer, maybe renting a cherry picker. (Note to self: get a cherry picker.) In the end, the water fight pictures were so much more fun that we chose one of those for the big picture.

One final photographic note: just about all these images were made just with natural light. I did throw in a bit of fill light with a diffused small speedlight when I was shooting Mary & Brian by the red window of the barn, and used a shoot-through umbrella to fill in Lauren & Matt by the barrel on the porch at the winery, because they were under a large awning.


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