Christening

A couple of weeks ago I was asked by the grandfather to photograph his grandson’s christening, and to take some family portraits afterward. The extended family was all here in town (Ventura, California), just for the weekend, so it was an ideal time to do it. We crossed our fingers that the weather would be nice, and it was!

The week before the event, I met with the grandfather and the pastor at the church, so I could discuss the flow of events, check for any rules about photography, and also determine how much light I would have. And it pays to be prepared: I was told to be there at 12:15, so there would be plenty of time before the actual christening ceremony started at 12:30 (at the end of the regular Sunday service). When I arrived – right on time – I was ushered in quickly and told they were waiting on me. Seems the service had run shorter than expected! If I hadn’t been completely prepared in terms of knowing my light levels and angles, it would have been a disaster. But I had all my equipment fired up and set properly before I walked in the door, and I was able start shooting without even looking down at my camera. Gotta be prepared!

And that four month old boy, what a ham! As soon as I walked in, he turned to me and started smiling and making faces. The christening part was a whirlwind, but a lot of fun. And then off to Arroyo Verde Park for the family portraits. I had picked the location ahead of time with my client, so there was no fussing around, looking for good spots and good light.

With big groups, the portraits can sometimes seem more about crowd control (“ok, did we get sub-groups B, C and D yet?”) and less about artistry. So whenever possible, I like to squeeze in a few candids, or some individual portraits just to add some variety. I was able to do that here, and love the results! It’s wonderful to get to know people by chatting with them as I take their portraits individually. Even though it’s just for a few seconds or minutes, and I get to see all the different personalities and characters that make up the family.

Technical notes: The church portion of this was shot on my Nikon F5 and one of my Nikon N90s 35mm cameras. One camera had a 50mm f/1.4 lens and black and white film (might have been Fuji Neopan 400, but I’m not sure, and can’t check right now). The color images used a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and a strobe, bouncing back over my shoulder. Color film throughout was Kodak Portra 400, shot at ISO 250 whenever possible.

The park portraits were all shot on my Bronica ETR-s, with a 75mm f/2.8 lens. No strobe, as I’d already picked a spot that would have naturally flattering ‘portrait’ light.

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