Stephanie and Kurt Celebrate 40 Years!


Stephanie and Kurt celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago, and I had the distinct honor of documenting it for them! The 100-guest event was held at the Heritage Square in Oxnard, California. Dinner, dancing, a slide show of their 40 years together, and even a renewal of vows in the historic chapel. It was so great to see all the generations of family together, and I got to be a fly on the wall.

The color of the day was red, red, red! Floral arrangements all designed by Stephanie herself.

Lots of family members, lots of kids, lots of smiles…

Getting the whole family together is a once-in-a-blue-moon event, so group shots are a must! Followed by dessert and cake, naturally.

Inside the chapel, a slide show and short ceremony to renew their vows…

And was there dancing? Oh yes, there was dancing!!

Wow, what a great evening! It makes me smile just thinking about it.

Technical stuff: this event was captured entirely on film (the new Kodak Portra 400). I mostly shot 35mm with my Nikon F5 and Nikon N90s. For the family portraits, I used my Mamiya 645AF medium format camera.

Outdoor shots of people at night present a challenge to most photographers, because the light level is very low. And what light there is can often be unflattering. And there are no walls or ceilings to bounce a flash off. Yet direct flash by itself looks very harsh. What to do?

First off, I exposed my film at ISO 800, which is one stop underexposed. The new Portra can handle that without needing to be pushed. I did this so I could have a manageable shutter speed to balance the ambient and strobes. Then I set up two Nikon SB-20 strobes on either side of the DJ rig, which were fired via radio triggers. I metered the flashes so they were exposing at f/5.6 at the dance floor, and were set to manual. I then put an SB-28 strobe on my camera in TTL mode, with the lens set at f/5.6. This meant the manual strobes would be exposing at the same level as the on-camera strobe for the main dance area, with a stop brighter or darker depending on where I roamed around. It’s film, so a little overexposure is no big deal (not like digital, where you lose everything).

My camera’s exposure was set manually, with the shutter speed slow enough to let some of the ambient light in, but fast enough that I didn’t get too much ghosting from the ambient light. With all that tungsten and disco lighting, the ‘available light’ was of poor quality. So it acts an accent, not the main light.

Most of the time I fired into the manual strobes rather than away from them, using them as edge/rim lights for the people dancing. This creates a dramatic light, but my on-camera TTL strobe ensured that the main subjects were always properly exposed. I also like the effect of including the strobes in the shot itself, which gives a club/concert-like atmosphere!

By the way, that last image did not use strobe. Instead I used a long exposure, and steadied the camera by placing it on a wall.

Deejay/music: “DJ G” (Gilberto Herrera)
Catering: La Dolce Vita


6 thoughts on “Stephanie and Kurt Celebrate 40 Years!

  1. Congratulation Stephanie and Kurt for Ur completing 40 years with each other. Wish the rest part of life also be Ur’s!!!!

  2. The photos are awesome – makes me want to have a celebration like that some day down the road. I just wanted to comment and say thanks for writing out all the technical info, especially the gear you used for lighting and why you set it up that particular way. So interesting. Thanks again!

  3. Matt, your work is amazing and inspiring! Thank you for sharing both your artistic talents as well as the technical details. Keep up the fantastic photography!

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