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Bridal portraits at Pawleys Plantation and the Conway River Walk

I don’t typically do an many bridal portraits as other types of photography.  A lot of people prefer to do engagement pictures with me and just do some bridal style pictures at the wedding.  But it’s always a lot of fun when I get to. This is one of the best kinds of photography you …

View post Bridal portraits at Pawleys Plantation and the Conway River Walk

Quick review of the Sigma 85mm f1.4 lens with Bridal and Engagement pictures

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I purchased a new lens, the Sigma 85mm EX DG HSM f1.4.  This quick review is from using a full frame Nikon D700 camera with this lens. I typically only buy Nikon lenses, so I have some top of the line lenses to compare the Sigma too, such as the latest Nikon 24-70 f2.8.  Nikon’s high end lenses have incredible optics and lens coatings that really control typical problems like chromatic aberration and lens flare.  My main concern is taking the highest quality pictures possible, currently Nikon’s 85mm f1.4 lens is $1700 vs $1000 for the Sigma which is a nice difference, but the big problem is you just can’t buy Nikon’s version.  I checked all of Nikon’s authorized dealers and I just can’t find it in stock.  I had read really good reviews of the Sigma lens from photographers such as Ryan Brenizer that I really respect, so I decided I would give it a try.

First of all, the lens has beautiful Bokeh, or the nice smooth out of focus areas in the background and foreground.  At f1.4, you are going to get a very shallow depth of field, a very small area of the picture that is in focus.  However, different lenses even at the same aperture, can vary a lot in the quality of the out of focus area or Bokeh. The out of focus areas of a picture can be as important as the in focus areas. I included the first shot below, not as an example of a really good picture, but because I wanted to show the quality of the Bokeh.  If you notice there is very little flare from the sun, even in the harsh lighting conditions.  The spots of light coming through the trees have turned into beautiful rounded discs, this means there is a high quality rounded aperture.  Of course I knew the Bokeh would be nice from the reviews I had read.

Focus and handling of the lens is really something you need hands on time with to know if it works for you.  My Nikon lenses such as the 24-70 and 70-200 focus extremely fast on the Nikon D700 body.  I knew the Sigma would not be that fast, but I’m pleasantly surprised with how quickly and spot on it locks the focus.  I occasionally miss focus on a shot, but it always seems to be my fault. When you are shooting wide open at f1.4 you have to be really careful to keep your subject in focus, it’s almost impossible if they are moving.  I actually was more afraid of shooting at f1.4 than I should have been, almost all my shots had almost perfect focus, or at least close enough it looked good.

To sum up my quick review, so far I’ve found the Sigma to have excellent focus, beautiful Bokeh, and fast performance.  I haven’t tried it in low light yet such as at a wedding reception, so I will see how it goes.  But so far I’m more than happy with the results I’ve been getting.  I hope you enjoy some of the shots below, they were all shot with the Sigma 85mm wide open at f1.4.  I’ll update this after using the lens more this summer, so far it seems like an excellent addition to my always growing bag of gear.

Note: If the things I talked about in the post sound confusing, there are lots of links that explain everything.  You will learn a lot if you check them out.

Update to this article: A few days after I wrote this I actually found the Nikon version of this lens in stock at the Nikon store for $1699.  I ordered this and will likely be returning the Sigma.  Everything I said about the Sigma is true, it’s a fantastic lens.  So why did I get the Nikon?  It’s all about build quality.  I was getting frustrated at my recent wedding because it was raining and I knew the Sigma is not weather sealed.  While the picture quality is fantastic, I use my lenses so much and in such harsh conditions I decided I should go with the Nikon.  Nikon builds their high end lenses like a tank, and while the build quality of the Sigma is fine, I decided I would prefer the weather sealing of the Nikon.  But if you aren’t a pro, get the Sigma.  It’s great for normal use.

This image is just here to show the quality of the Bokeh
Sunlight hitting the veil - Bridal Portrait - Myrtle Beach

View post Quick review of the Sigma 85mm f1.4 lens with Bridal and Engagement pictures

Wedding reception at the Conway River Walk

I had a fun wedding reception a couple of weeks ago in the Conway River Walk area, specifically at the Peanut Warehouse.  The Conway area is a small historic town about 20 minutes away from Myrtle Beach.  Conway has a really pretty area on the river, with some nearby railroad tracks that are no longer used, that makes for a great photo location.  This couple already had their wedding ceremony in Italy, they were just having a second reception for the family and friends that were not able to make the trip.  I wouldn’t normally want to just photograph a reception only, but this couple had me do bridal and couple pictures before the reception.  It was pretty much what I would do for any wedding except for the actual ceremony itself.  I just know my pictures can’t really compete with the beautiful location they had for their wedding.

This turned out to be a lot of fun because the bride was not worried about her dress and we had lots of extra time for pictures of her and the couple, a lot more time than I would typically have at a wedding.  Everyone was really relaxed as well.  The couple even ventured out pretty far on the railroad tracks to a little bridge overlooking the water.  I was actually surprised they were willing to do so much because the tracks are very difficult to walk on.  I’m always up for anything, so if there are any adventurous couples that want to try something different please let me know.

The only problem with the pictures is it was a very overcast evening, which can be nice, but it was making for some flat kind of boring light. I’ve been experimenting more and more with using off camera flash aided by the new Pocket Wizards.  I tried in a few shots to get some flash on a light stand behind the subject to simulate sunlight hitting from behind.  I also used a second flash a lot at the reception itself to give some more interesting lighting.  If you enjoy these pictures or have any comments about them please let me know below.

Light coming through the walls at Peanut Warehouse - Conway River Walk
Bride backlit with flash - Conway River Walk

View post Wedding reception at the Conway River Walk

Bridal portraits in Pawleys Island, SC

A couple of weeks ago I was able to do some very pretty bridal portraits for a bride getting married this weekend.  We set everything up on just a few weeks notice but I had the weekend open and was glad I was able to fit them in.  This is a pretty unique location in a private home area a bit south of Pawleys Island, SC which is about 30 minutes south of the Myrtle Beach area.  The wedding planner knew one of the residents in the area and they allowed us to do some pictures around their home as well as down near the Intracoastal Waterway.  I thought they all turned out really beautifully and wanted to share some below.  I especially liked some of the sunset pictures down near the water with the sun spilling through the oak trees.  If properly exposed, shots backlit by the sun can be very beautiful.  I hope you enjoy these below.

Bride walking up steps – Litchfield

View post Bridal portraits in Pawleys Island, SC

Fun bridal portraits at Brookgreen Gardens, Holiday Cottage

It was nice going to the Holiday Cottage in Brookgreen Gardens without actually being there for the wedding ceremony.  I always get some nice shots of the bride at the cottage area, but it’s nice to have a whole hour just to concentrate on the one thing without being rushed.  This gives me enough time …

View post Fun bridal portraits at Brookgreen Gardens, Holiday Cottage

Beautiful Sunset – Myrtle Beach Park

I’ve been extremely busy the past few weeks, I haven’t had time to put up a blog post with recent pictures. Remember if you click “most recent images” on my home page you will find some of my recent uploads that don’t always make it to the blog.  Today I was working on some family/engagement pictures and I really loved the sunset and wanted to highlight some of them.  This may look like a wedding, but it was really just a family photoshoot of a recently married couple and their family. We were able to do some with the bride in her dress, and because the wedding was over she didn’t mind getting it dirty. One thing that made these pictures really nice is the fact that it was almost sunset, at a normal wedding I might be trying to do pictures 2 hours or more before sunset because of the ceremony time, which isn’t really ideal.  I hope you enjoy these.

View post Beautiful Sunset – Myrtle Beach Park