It all started with a Facebook message. My friend and top rodeo cowboy Clint Cannon and his fiancé Lindsey Smith didn't like the local options in New Brunswick, Canada, and were asking if I would shoot their wedding. If there's one thing I know, it's that you shouldn't take an assignment for which you aren't prepared. Having never shot a wedding, and knowing how specialized (poses, retouching, extreme photoshopping etc) it has become, I tried to dissuade them, going as far as recommending a few wedding photographers I know. But they had their minds made up that they wanted me to basically translate my behind-the-scenes rodeo photography to wedding photography. So I blocked off the weekend on my calendar and started asking friends who shoot weddings for things to look for and things to avoid, plus links to wedding pictures so I could start my research and planning.
I flew into Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada the day before the wedding so that I could check out the church and barn (yes, barn) in Sackville where the reception would be held. Clint's father Jay was assigned to drive me around, and on the way to Sackville, we randomly stopped in downtown Moncton just in time to watch the Petitcodiac River tidal bore. The wave wasn't huge that day, but we did watch the river go from a few inches to several feet deep within 15 minutes:
After checking into our hotels, we drove into the countryside a bit to check out the locations. I've been all over Canada, but never this far east. This reminded me of just how far away from home I was:
I have been in and heard about churches that are almost pitch black. Luckily there were plenty of windows at Sackville United Church. I used the rehearsal to find out where I could shoot and experiment with angles and settings:
The rehearsal dinner was in a room beside the barn, and featured a feast of local lobsters:
I was supposed to have a ride to the other hotel for the hair and makeup session, and did, but since everyone shut their phones off to avoid the comical roaming charges, I didn't know about it. The 1.5 mile walk across Sackville was pretty, but the combination of 35lbs of camera gear and humidity had me sweating before the first frame. Luckily the room was air conditioned.
The first curveball came as the ladies were done getting dressed. I thought I would have some time to get a drink and maybe change my clothes, but we drove into the country for some pictures of Lindsey's family and the bridesmaids:
I was trying to shoot between the deck and a bench, and couldn't get the angle I wanted, but ended up with this picture of the bride and bridesmaids wearing their cowboy boots:
After pictures at a farming museum, a covered bridge and a hay field, we arrived at the church. Seeing it full of people for the first time I realized that I was going to have to switch up my plan and largely ignore the minister's instructions. I shot Lindsey and her dad walking down the aisle, and a bit more from the back:
Then as the service got started, I moved to a pew in the front. Tough angle, but I didn't want to get kicked out of the wedding. Who knows, maybe the PRCA had an official there.
Later, I moved to the middle, just a few feet from bride and groom. Being this close was risky, but ended up working well:
Since I was sitting right next to Jay, I made this picture of him taking his own picture:
After the ceremony, I moved to the back of the church to catch the newlyweds walking down the aisle:
As people left for the cocktail hour, I made some pictures of the couple plus bridesmaids and groomsmen. Clint wanted the whole church in the picture, and of course I broke out the fisheye:
Then curveball number two came. I thought we would be going to the reception, when Lindsey, Clint and I drove father out into the country to do some newlywed portraits. I was preparing to shoot in a crowd, but we ended up on country roads and bales of hay. Luckily we found some cool locations and I changed it up on the fly:
Back at the reception I had about 7 cups of iced tea to try to replace all of the fluid I lost. I caught a break in the shade and then did some family pictures on the side of the barn. Of course the two I'm happiest with both feature Jay:
As the reception started, I waited just inside the door as the groomsmen and bridesmaids were introduced. And because I was there I caught this nice and totally candid moment:
The view from the dais:
And finally the bouquet toss:
I left very shortly after that, completely exhausted and in dire need of a shower.
A few notes: just like in sports photography, it's critical to stay hydrated on long shoots. I didn't, and paid the price. It's also important to avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. I did, and it was unnecessary. If you're a competent photographer, you will get the pictures you need. I brought far more gear than I ended up using. I shot with one body and one lens (14-24mm) for about 75% of the pictures. I mixed in the fisheye, 70-200 and a couple of f/1.4 primes for effect, but not as much as I anticipated.
All in all it was a great experience, but still well out of my comfort zone. It was great meeting all of the friends and family who were there, and it was awesome seeing Lindsey and Clint tie the knot. Best of luck to the happy couple!