First ever wedding on the grassy lawn at the Caravelle Resort and a rant about Myrtle Beach

I was told this is the first wedding they have held on the lawn behind the Caravelle Resort in Myrtle Beach. The reception later in the evening was at the St. John’s Inn across the street. I have done a wedding there before. I thought the lawn was quite a nice area, there was some shade from the large hotel building and there was plenty of trees around blocking things you might not want to see.  This was definitely one of the nicer behind the resort type wedding areas I’ve seen. They said if it worked out they were going to try more weddings at this location in the future.  I imagine they will be very happy with how it turned out.

Of course, I have my usual problem of it being in the city limits. I have a Myrtle Beach business license so I can work at locations such as this, but it’s still against the MB City laws to do any commercial work on the beach.  What I’ve been doing is just cautioning everyone not to do too much on the beach, doing some shots of the wedding party and couple, while keeping an eye out for the beach cops.  The resorts really need to work with the city to get something done about this law.  It seems like all the resorts encourage the breaking of it by not informing clients about the rules.  Who would imagine, unless someone tells them, that you could have a beach resort wedding and technically not be allowed on the beach sand.  It’s just a bad situation all around that I can’t comprehend.  I was at the Grande Dunes Ocean Club a while back.  They set up a wedding on the beach like I’ve been at many times before, and the cops came along and told them they had to clear everything off the beach.  How many people do you think would have weddings in the Myrtle Beach City limits if the first thing the resorts told them was that they can’t go down on the beach sand at all.  Of course they aren’t going to tell them that. So I always end up just risking a fine and doing some pictures on the beach anyway. Anyway, you can tell the whole thing is just ridiculous.

Anyway, enough of my rant about Myrtle Beach and the resorts.  I love the way at the St. John’s Inn they have the small lights stringed up along the ceiling. When you are using a really high end lens, like the 85mm f1.4 Nikon lens I was using in the dancing shots, it turns any small background lights into large rounded out of focus orbs.  It’s a great look for dancing.  You can take just about any room and string up some lights, and with the right lens you can make the background beautiful.  I hope you enjoy the pictures below, I uploaded a bunch of them this time.  Please like this post or comment below if you enjoy them. 

Bridemaids walking down the isle - Caravelle ResortShe finally threw the flowers - Caravelle Resort

View post First ever wedding on the grassy lawn at the Caravelle Resort and a rant about Myrtle Beach

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.

Example of Bokeh from Tamron Lens
This image is just here to show the quality of the Bokeh

Sunlight hitting the veil - Bridal Portrait - Myrtle Beach
Sunlight hitting the veil - Bridal Portrait - Myrtle Beach

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

Fun engagement portraits and getting a new lens

I’ve had a lot of really nice engagement portrait sessions this winter.  The weather has been fantastic, I’ve noticed I had more work this winter then last year probably because of the nice weather.  I actually don’t have anything scheduled this weekend, but I have a couple of engagement session for the next.

I’m getting a new portrait lens the Sigma 85mm f1.4.  You might wonder why I’m not buying the Nikon version of this lens.  I almost exclusively use Nikon, my go to lenses the 24-70 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8 are fantastic.  Ryan Brenizer, a photographer I really trust, reviewed the Sigma lens and really loved it.  With the problems in Japan, Nikon lenses are so expensive and hard to get right now, I just decided to go with the Sigma instead.  The reason I’m mentioning this, is this will probably be my new lens for engagement pictures, at least for many shots.  For example the Bokeh, or out of focus sun coming through the trees in the first image, with the 85mm prime lens at f1.4 would be much creamier and and softer.  It makes for a really amazing look.  It’s harder to use a prime lens of course, because you have to zoom with your feet.  Also accurate focus is critical when shooting at very wide apertures like f1.4.  I’m going to give the lens a good try and I’ll probably write a review myself as well.

The couple featured below was a lot of fun.  They haven’t set a date for the wedding yet, so I was just doing engagement pictures separately from the wedding.  They were very happy and couldn’t stop smiling at each other, it made for a lot of fun candid shots.  I hope you enjoy some of the pictures below.

Engagement portrait in front of the oak trees - Myrtle Beach State Park
Engagement portrait in front of the oak trees - Myrtle Beach State Park

Couple sitting on the oak tree in black and white. - Myrtle Beach State Park
Couple sitting on the oak tree in black and white. - Myrtle Beach State Park

View post Fun engagement portraits and getting a new lens

Engagement portraits at Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC

This is my first time visiting the Magnolia Plantation.  It’s a very nice area, it reminds me a lot of Brookgreen Gardens.  Unlike Brookgreen though we were allowed to go wherever we wanted to do the pictures and spend as much time as well.  I had a lot of fun walking around for an hour or so with the couple and finding places to do shots.  The first time to an area takes a bit of experimenting and exploring around.

We had some pretty strong early afternoon sunlight which can be difficult at the beach or in an open area, but being in a nice area with plenty of trees and shade it’s not really a problem.  In fact the strong sun gives some nice Bokeh from the pinpoints of light reflecting off the trees, you can see this especially on the first image.  You can tell if someone has a really good lens not by looking at what is in focus, but by looking at the quality of the out of focus areas.

I really liked the old fence where the horses were as well, you can see a number of shots from that spot below.  The bamboo was really cool as well, but what I really wanted was evening sun showing through the Bamboo, and I couldn’t really get that, I’ll try again at this couple’s wedding in December. It should be very nice and will be later in the day so things should go even better.  Let me know in the comments if you like the pictures.

Kiss on a bridge, shot with 70-200 f2.8 - Magnolia Plantation Charleston
Kiss on a bridge, shot with 70-200 f2.8 - Magnolia Plantation Charleston

Kiss in front of a lake, push process black and white  - Magnolia Plantation Charleston
Kiss in front of a lake, push process black and white - Magnolia Plantation Charleston

View post Engagement portraits at Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC

Groomsmen on the beach

Love the 70-200 f2.8 Short Depth of Field

I’ve included some images below from last weekend’s wedding up in North Myrtle Beach that feature use of the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens.  The Nikon 24-70 f2.8 that I probably do 90% of my photography with is one of the best lenses ever made, however there is just something special about the 70-200 f2.8, when I’m in a location that I can use it.  Because of the focal length, I have to be typically outdoors with plenty of room to maneuver and typically for closeups, that is why it doesn’t get used all that much.  I hope you enjoy the images.

Listening to a really long wedding speech

View post Love the 70-200 f2.8 Short Depth of Field