Wedding & Portraiture
Finding Beauty Where You Least Expect It

Photo 1.
Photos © 1998, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

Teaching photography to Carnival Cruise Line photographers has given me an opportunity that few people have in their lifetime. I spend weeks at a time cruising on the world's greatest fleet of ships to some of the world's most incredibly beautiful destinations. During a recent Caribbean cruise I made it a point to find photographs that you'd never find on postal cards or see in travel brochures. Photographs that have been hiding there for years waiting to be discovered by inquisitive minds like mine.

So, armed with my Canon EOS-1 digital camera and backed-up with my Macintosh PowerBook 3400C laptop computer in my cabin, I decided to find beauty that others pass by without ever taking notice. I can tell you that this was one of the most fun and exciting photographic challenges I have ever thrown at myself. Here are some of the results.

A Different Viewpoint. Of course I expected to find a pretty place for weddings when Carnival first sent me to help their photographers take pictures at the Emerald Beach Resorts, St. Thomas, but what I didn't expect to see was a wedding ceremony take place in such an incredibly beautiful setting. Wedding consultant, Debra Williams of Fantasia Weddings and Honeymoons plans everything there along with the ship's bridal department. Together, they set up weddings that fulfill brides' lifetime dreams. You can visit her web site at: www.wedusvi.com.

Photo 2.

It was our job to create memories of the wedding that captured the true essence of what it's like to get married on a Caribbean island. Not such an easy task when you come to think about it.

A scene captured in a single picture, or a series of photographs in this case. It took backing up away from the actual ceremony, so that this couple and their families and friends could get a feel for what Caribbean weddings can look like. Plus, the image had to create a feeling of actually being there. I feel as if I accomplished the task when I backed away and created a composition through the palm leaves that flanked the pool on both sides.

Just look at the depth in Photo 1. Begin with the leaves, then the pool, the ceremonial canopy, and then the bay, hills, and sky beyond them. I stopped the lens way down to 1/125 at f/16, exposing for the bright sunshine of the background. If the background is important, as it is in this exposure, expose for that. A flash would have ruined the picture by lighting up the foreground too much and taking away from the entire scene.

Photo 3.

After the cake cutting and champagne toast the couple enjoyed the beach adjacent to the ceremony. One of the ship's photographers had them stroll alongside the water's edge. We photographed the couple walking toward and away from the camera. When the couple stopped to kiss I made Photo 2.

The next day of the cruise we were in St. Maarten. I was determined to walk some of the meals off and see what I could find that was not a part of the typical sights. Sure, there's the courthouse in the middle of the town square, but I found little places like the side of this house just a little out of the town center much more intriguing (Photo 3). The brightly painted exterior was a sight that stopped me more quickly than the myriad of golden jewelry and diamonds in the shop windows.

It was just like doing a portrait. I photographed into the shadowed side of the "face" of the building. That helped to establish depth in the photograph that would have been lacking, had I photographed the front of the house that was flatly lit by the sunshine. Come to think of it, I don't even remember what the front of the house looked like. As I came to the corner, I immediately went to the shaded side of the building and never went any farther.

Photo 4.

Broadway and Hol lywood seem to be a theme that goes through at least one of their acts during each cruise. Here's the finale to Carousel (Photo 4). The photograph was made by setting my digital Canon on a Benbo tripod right in the middle of the center-aisle staircase. Other than that, it was a snap. I used my 20-35mm zoom lens for this and all the other images in this story. All I did was to set it up with its "P" program automatic exposure. It sets its own speed and f/stop for you.

I've done the same thing in regular theaters, hand holding a camera and letting the camera make all the decisions. With a steady hand and the back of a theater seat in front of you, you can pull similar images off without anyone being the wiser. Just don't let anyone see you carrying the camera into the theater. They sort of frown on people like us.

Photo 5.

The next port was Dominica. I got up bright and early and was one of the first people to disembark and go ashore. As I was leaving the pier, I turned and saw the sky behind the bow (front) of the ship. It was so subtle, so surprisingly quiet and beautiful, I stopped to zoom my lens in and out to see what I could isolate for my first picture of the day.

Here it is (Photo 5). How many people get off the ship and never see what I saw through my lens. It was awesome. Later, when I saw the image on my computer, I found that there was actually too much in the picture. Less would have been more. So, with Photoshop's cropping tool I drew different rectangles, finally coming down to the full width of the original image, but just leaving out some of the top and the bottom.

Minutes later, I found myself off the pier and walking through a building into an open courtyard just behind it. There, I came across the typical barrage of vendors, each selling their own wares.

Photo 6.

This time, however, on my special mission, I was intrigued by this arrangement of straw baskets that were being displayed. I zoomed in and out to come up with this composition (Photo 6). The early morning light was coming in from above and from my left, with more open sky behind me for the fill light. It was a ready-made studio portrait lighting system. Just look at the incredible three-dimensional quality of each individual item.

Sometimes black and white says it better than color. When I came to this church I didn't know where to begin. I examined the walls, the doors, the interior, the gardens, and finally looked up to see this image staring me right in the face. The shapes, the textures, the graceful leaves next to the stark simplicity of the church spires, and the crosses on the top--it was all overwhelming to me.

Again, where to crop. From which angle? I studied the area for quite some time, before I came up with this composition. What you're seeing in Photo 7 is exactly what I saw in my viewfinder, but with a few very significant changes.

Photo 7.

First of all, I took the digital image into Photoshop and straightened all of the vertical lines. What a difference that made. Then, I saw the stark contrast between the textured tones of the building against the white fluffy clouds behind it.

Immediately I realized that this picture was meant to be in black and white. I desaturated the picture, taking out all of the color (again in Photoshop) and was ecstatic over the results. Look at the full range of tones between the brilliance of the whitest clouds in the upper right hand corner and the deep blacks further below.

Memories From The Past. Returning back to the ship I noticed the sparkling surface of the water. The sun reflected in all the little ripples of the surface.

Photo 8.

Have you ever had the feeling that you've "been there/done that?" That's what happened to me when I made Photo 8 from the top deck. Twenty-five years previously I was standing by the edge of a lake in Austria with my teacher and mentor, Joe Zeltsman.

I had framed a view of a quaint little town, Halstadt, in the viewfinder. Everything was perfect. Well, almost perfect. All I needed was something in the foreground to fill in the bottom of the composition and give me a lead-in to the town in the background. At that very moment I saw a small boat coming toward the scene I had framed on my ground glass. When the boat came into the perfect spot I took the picture and created my lifetime favorite photograph.

I later inscribed on that picture "A Place for Us," when I gave a copy of it to someone near and very dear to my heart. That became the title of the picture and it appeared on a poster that I later created to commemorate my 45th anniversary as a professional photographer.

Photo 9.

Once again I waited and won-dered. And once again I caught the action at just the right moment to "make" this photograph (Photo 8). Without the boat and its wake the photograph would have been just an abstract of sparkles on the surface of the water. Those sparkles, to my surprise, were further enhanced when I later saw how the digital camera added so much color to the sparkles in the water.

In Barbados, walking right in the center of Bridgetown, I looked up and saw another potential picture (Photo 9). The upper floor of the courthouse seemed to have a lot going for it. I zoomed my lens in and out. I moved inches at a time. Shifted my viewpoint slightly over and over again--just to see what effect it had in my viewfinder.

Was I thinking of the Rule of Thirds when I placed the silver dome in my picture? Was I thinking about compositional standards? The truthful answer is, no. I don't think about anything, except what looks the most pleasing to me. Of course, that comes after having studied and practiced all of these concepts for years on end. Now, it's become a part of me.

Photo 10.

On the way back to the ship I noticed some scarves hanging on a clothes line (Photo 10). The sea breezes were blowing the scarves back and forth. I could see that to show the color and transparency of the fabrics I'd have to get down below the scarves and photograph upward toward the sky. No problem.

I gotta tell you that this programming for the camera to make all the exposure adjustments on its own is the greatest. I wouldn't have known how to expose for this picture.

I studied this next spot for almost a week before I took the picture.

Almost all of the ships have gorgeous atriums that go up from the Empress deck all the way through to the top of the ship. The design of the glass roofs have intrigued me ever since I've been sailing on their ships. For some reason it never dawned on me that there was a photograph there--until this cruise.

Photo 11.

I became intrigued with the design and potential photograph that lurked there. At the same time, I noticed that the image changed with the time of the day. That is, the sky background made a huge difference to how the design stood out. Then, one afternoon just before the sun went down, I made two or three exposures (changing the composition slightly each time) and ended up with Photo 11.

These last two years have been great, training Carnival's portrait photographers. Plus, they've given me a fantastic opportunity to help develop my teaching skills.

They have also helped me to develop my eye for seeing beauty where I'd never before have noticed it. Hopefully you too will become more aware of your own environment and start seeing photographs--where no one else looks.

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