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Thursday, 31 October 2013
Astrocat Intergalactic Rock Band
Mood:  cool
Topic: Pix of Week

When I was young the local weekly newspaper published an article saying that one of our local residents had claimed to have been abducted by aliens.  So it was only natural that 50+ years later I should photograph a rock band whose ads hint at an intergalactic origin.  

We were privileged to have the opportunity to photograph the lead guitarist / vocalist from the band from Vermont known as ASTROCAT.  Photographically, it gave us the opportunity to use edgier lighting than called for in our typical family portraits.   

We used a gridded main light from camera right, a gridded strip bank camera left and behind the subject, and then to the camera left in front of the subject we used a red-gelled speedlight to give the guitar a "hot" red glow in the highlights.  

We discovered the angle of the gelled light had to be almost 90 degrees to the camera to prevent getting a hot spot on the highly reflective guitar. We also were disappointed in the quality of the red light when it hit the face. This tended to just flatten it out without adding any real interest, so we wound up using a Rogue Flashbender to flag the gelled speedlight from reaching the face of our subject.

Once we got some basic shots, we then started "fooling around," trying various poses and lights to see what we would get.  

And another one, where you can imagine that he is inviting you to his next concert. 

As you can see above, this portion of the session employed more balanced lighting with a smaller contrast ratio, more typical of a casual portrait.    

Our subject also brought along another guitar - this one acoustic.  We used it to try for a mellower "coffee house" portrait.  

If you would like to see more images from this portrait session, Click Here to see a larger sample and to see the above images in a larger format. 

If you would like to check out some of ASTROCAT's music, check out their BandCamp site, by Clicking Here.  

Lastly, if you are a local Vermont musician and would like your portrait taken, give us a call.  We would love to "shoot" you!  

Posted by Warren

Ayer Photography of Vermont                         


Posted by ayerphoto at 2:15 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 1 November 2013 11:30 AM EDT
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Friday, 25 October 2013
2013 VPP Mtg - Busath Family Portraits
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: VT Professional Photographers

The Vermont Professional Photographers held their latest meeting at Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction, Vermont, on Sunday, October 20, 2013. Our guest speaker was Drake Busath, M. Photog. Cr., of Salt Lake City, Utah.  He spent the day with us sharing his techniques and style for family and group portraiture.     

Drake says he "grew up in a darkroom," the son of a great photographer.  And the family tradition extended to a third generation as Drake's sons have now also joined the Busath Studio and Gardens business (www.busath.com).  This has enabled Drake to now split his time between his native Utah and Italy, where he leads photographic village tours in Tuscany, Venice and other locales.

  

Drake has been privileged to teach his portraiture techniques and style to professionals worldwide.  He has also been a regular speaker at Imaging USA and been featured on four covers of Professional Photographer Magazine.  He has earned Masters and Craftsman Degrees from the Professional Photographers of America and is a charter member of XXV.

Family Portraiture

For our meeting in the Vermont Room at the Hotel Coolidge, Drake shared tips and favorite techniques that have sustained his family's classic portrait business in Utah.  Many of them we had heard before in different forms, but his twist made some of them more memorable.

We have always been taught, while photographing families and other groups, to try to avoid having the heads lined up in a row or a column - each should instead have its own space vertically and horizontally.  In Drake's version of this tip, he visualizes the heads as notes on a musical score and requires their arrangement to create a melody (rather than "Johnny one note!").  When there is only four people it often works to have them simulate a "String of pearls" supported by diagonals on the two sides.

Another thing he tries to weave into his group poses is what he calls "connections."  These are gestures, touches, that communicate bonds between some of the people - he called it "adding the love."  Interestingly, he suggested that a loose or draped hand connotes trust, whereas a firm hand is often interpreted as possession.   

He also offered practical tips for interacting with the subjects of the photograph.  For example, he suggested not micromanaging the pose, using non-posing direction, such as look at a certain place rather than turn your head 20 degrees left.    

When younger children are part of the group, Drake suggested that how you interact with that child (or children) may make or break your portrait session.  This is an area where his studio takes time to train his photographers.  He said the trick for him is to develop ways to take the attention off of the child and put it into a made up storyline.  Get the child involved and invested in a story.  You need to infuse personality into an object that will keep their attention as the story develops.  This might be a stuffed animal, toy, or almost anything.  Then by using the elements of suspense (what is going to happen to the character), discipline (the character gets disciplined rather than the child), and humiliation ( the character of the photographer) you can almost always draw out the great expressions you need for a great portrait.   He notes for ages 2 to 6 a bit of slap stick is almost a necessity.     

We got to see some of these techniques in action as VPP had arranged for a three generation family to pose for Drake, while we watched him in action.  I personally did not like the spot that was chosen to pose them because even with a short depth of field I could still identify the dumpster in the background - and that was a bit too urban grunge for my tastes.  

As Drake worked with the children one at a time we had more flexibility and his storyline technique evoked some good expressions. 

And this one I took over his shoulder.   

Drake also described his technique for large extended groups that cannot all be present at the same time.  This is similar to a technique described by Michael Greenberg and others.  In Drake's version you define a fixed camera / lighting setup and then set everything up identical each time.  You take the individuals or individual sub-groups and then stitch them together.  He uses this technique to sell very large panoramics up to 20x80.  Because it is made up of stitched images, there is more than enough resolution for very large prints.

Drake demonstrated the setup with what we had available and walked us through the steps by photographing the attendees.  Since he did not take the time to develop the finished product, I thought I would try the technique when I got back to our own studio.  Since I also did not have a large group to photograph right that minute, I decided to photograph myself multiple times - each time with a different instrument - for a One Man Band composite.  Here is the result.  

If you would like to see a larger version than will fit in this blog format, click HERE.  As our own family has grown larger and larger and harder and harder to get everyone in the same place at the same time, I have begun to think this might be the way to go to producing some great keepsakes.  

Like all of the Vermont Professional Photographers meetings we learned something and had some great fellowship.

Posted by Warren

Ayer Photography of Vermont           


Posted by ayerphoto at 10:29 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 26 October 2013 7:36 PM EDT
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Monday, 7 October 2013
Fall Family Fotos
Mood:  lucky
Topic: Pix of Week

For the last couple of years, I have been longing to see some bright foliage.  I remembered it from years past - even had a few photographs of it, but recent autumns in western Vermont have been a bit lackluster.  Some of it was the weather and some of it was certain leaf molds that seemed to have discolored some of my favorite neighborhood trees. 

There are three maple trees along a street near my house where I used to walk my dog most every morning.  When we would go down that street between 9 and 10 in the morning, those three maple trees would glisten gold in the morning light - the yellows were just spectacular!  The last two years, however, they just did not seem to shine like they once did.  At first I thought it was the weather, then I thought it was my memory.  But then I took a closer look at all the leaves.  They were covered with brown splotches to such an extent that a bright yellow was no longer possible.  There was just enough yellow left to remind you how magnificent they once were, but even this year, when other trees returned to their former glory, these favorites were still sadly dull! 

And so this year I went in search of good color.  It was predicted to be a reasonable year - wet spring, dry fall, cool nights.  And sure enough if you went looking good color abounded.  And enough afternoons were sunny to have given you multiple days on which to view it in all its glory.

This was a good year for family portraits with real Vermont foliage backdrops.  The tricky part is getting the light and the babies in the families to coordinate their schedules.  For ideal conditions, you would like to find some trees with great color with exposure to the late afternoon sun to make it pop.  And you would like to find a spot where your subjects can stand or sit in shade with the brightly lit leaves behind them.  With many locations this means you have a window of opportunity of limited length.  Too early and the shade is not well developed enough or must be created artificially.  Too late and the trees begin to be shaded as well and no longer as bright.  

We were fortunate to be able to photograph several young families this fall foliage season.  It is such a delightful time of year - not too hot, not too cold, and a warm natural color all around.     

This couple had loved Indian Brook Reservoir in Essex Junction, Vermont, and so we hoped to catch it in good color.  Because of the moderating effect of the water, the color at the water's edge was still in the earlier stages with lots of greens, even though the access road was at peak.  As luck would have it the sun also disappeared behind a large cloud bank just as we reached the park and stayed there.   

Even so, autumn was in clear evidence and the subdued oranges gave it a nice warmth.   

We had scouted out some peak color in Westford, Vermont, only a few miles up the road, so we headed up there.  There was a good wall of trees at near peak color, but unfortunately the sun refused to come out and play like it had when we scouted the location.   

So we slowed the shutter down to catch as much ambient light as we could and then lit the subjects with off-camera speedlites diffused with an umbrella. In addition to leaves, we also found a small garden with some sunflowers and a few mums and other plants in nice fall hues. 

Fall can be a great time for a family portrait, even if you do not have a new baby to show off. 

If you would like a portrait made, give us a call.  We would love to see you in our pictures!

Posted by Warren

Ayer Photography of Vermont                        


Posted by ayerphoto at 2:38 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 October 2013 4:59 PM EDT
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Friday, 27 September 2013
Ten Reasons To Choose Ayer Photography of Vermont
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: Wedding Tips

In the current economy there are so many choices when it comes to selecting a photographer for your wedding, event or portrait, that it can be confusing.  Where do you begin?  Who is right for you?  What should you look for?  

This post answers the question of why you would choose a professional photographer in general, and why you would choose Ayer Photography of Vermont in particular.  The truth of the matter is that not all photographers are created equal, not all have the same operating principles, and not all have the same personality or guiding vision.   Furthermore, what is a good compromise for some customers will be a poor choice for others. 

And in the case of a wedding, it is about a lot more than just the images - it is also about the full experience - many customers opt for a photographer, who will do more than document the event - they want someone who will enrich their day and make it better, while also capturing great photographs. 

Our most recent bride and groom just sent us a thank you card.  They wrote, "thank you, thank you, thank you!  We are so excited to see how our pictures look.  We had such a great time and you were there to capture everything.  You helped us both feel at ease and I know our pictures will be great!  You were both so wonderful to work with.  Thanks again!"  They sent it to us while on their honeymoon and before they had seen more than a small fraction of the final images!  They were thanking us for the experience, as most of our customers do!  This is one of several reasons our customers select us for their wedding photography; and then refer us to their friends and families.   

 

Some of the elements that our customers have told us differentiate us from some of our competitors are as follows:   

Professional Artistry        

Our artistic goal is to tell the story of what makes our clients uniquely special, and the treasured relationships they have with the people, with whom they are connected in this life.  We do this through photographic art, that touches the heart and reflects their priceless value.   

Take a look through our galleries and albums to get a sense of how our artistic vision captures real events and emotions; and even see how it has evolved over the years.  While art is always a subjective thing, indications that our art is appreciated include:  a) multiple repeat and referral customers, b) peer recognition and awards in professional competitions, and c) our images being selected for publication in regional magazines, including two covers.       

Professional Albums     

At heart we are storytellers - some long, some short - but stories, nonetheless.  That is to say, our images have something to say about their subjects - about who they are, what they are like, and who they love.  This aspect of our business is most fully realized, when we produce an album.  From the moment we pick up our cameras we are working on your album, your story - collecting all the images and other elements we will need to tell it professionally. 

Then we custom design your story.  While some of our competitors offer little more than a photographer's portfolio, we tell your story, with your favorite images and give you final approval of our final design.  We do not use templates; and we do not use stock photos or graphical elements.  Every image and embellishment comes from your wedding.

Once the design is complete and approved, we print and bind it, creating an heirloom quality product in one of our three album styles, or two photobook styles.  We have produced multiple albums of each of our styles with album partners, that have a proven ability to repeatedly and consistently meet our exacting standards for print quality and accuracy and attention to every detail of high-quality album construction.  Even then the final album must pass our designer's final inspection, before it is delivered to you.  

 

Professional Quality           

While it is nice to be lucky, consistent high quality products and services is rarely an accident.  We work at it.  We understand for example the twelve elements of a high quality image and apply our experience and knowledge to achieving them every time.  We retouch every single image before we present it to you--you do not have to imagine what it could look like.  We use professional grade materials, equipment and software.  We use only proven professional lab partners and rigorously calibrate our equipment with theirs to achieve a consistent quality output.  Our labs inspect and correct every single product to our exacting standards of excellence, and every product partner has to demonstrate repeated consistent quality to remain our partner... right down to how it is packaged and shipped.     

Professional Customer Experience         

Our tagline is "Telling Your Story In Pictures!"  When we take your photograph, or design and produce the final product, we do apply our artistic vision and expertise.  But we always remember it is your story, it is your wedding, it is your heirloom album or piece of wall décor.  How we execute that vision is as important as the final product.  This is why we take the time to talk to you and get to know you before the event or session.  At a wedding, for example, we want to be as unobtrusive as possible - it is your wedding, not ours, and the final product should reflect that.  It is also why, for example, we will ask you to select your favorite images for inclusion in your album.  While we will design it and make it as artistic as we know how, we will use the images you love best.  At the end of the day, it is your album, that you will treasure and show to your grandchildren 

Professional Communication          

Nobody likes surprises.  So we make every effort to communicate clearly and completely.  This is why we have a website, that shows more than pretty pictures.  While we know that you need to see examples of our work, we also know that that is only one step in your decision-making process to hire a professional photographer.  We describe our products and encourage every potential customer to come and meet with us face-to-face.  We will answer all your questions and give you a good opportunity to see how our personality meshes with yours.  Like us, we assume you want your decision to be an informed one, based on facts and clear understandings, rather than guesswork or assumptions.      

Professional Equipment       

We use only professional equipment that requires a serious investment.  While we realize that under ideal conditions, an experienced photographer can probably produce a good image with consumer-grade cameras and lenses.  The trouble with weddings, for example, is that conditions are very often far from ideal for some part, if not all of the day.  It is under less than ideal conditions that professional grade cameras, lenses, and other equipment enable the professional to produce quality images.  Our prime camera body, for example, is a Canon EOS 1D mark IV on which we mount only Canon "L-series" lenses.  And our backup is a Canon EOS 1D mark III.  Such equipment costs many times more than the prosumer models.  But we made the investment so that we can still "get all the shots," even when conditions are far from ideal.      

Professional Experience              

Our lead photographer, Warren, has been taking photographs for other people for over fifty years.  We have been offering professional wedding, event, and portrait photography services as Ayer Photography of Vermont for over ten years.  During that last ten years, we have photographed weddings in barns, hotels, ballrooms, tents, fields, and forests; in simple country churches, historical landmarks, and ornate cathedrals; on hilltops, mountaintops, beaches, porches, and boats; in the harsh sun of day, the cool shade, the warm light of afternoon, candle light, star light, fire light, or under fireworks; in spring, summer, fall, and winter; windy, calm, rainy, and even snowy.  We have photographed weddings based on Christian, Celtic, Vedic (Hindu), Peruvian Indian, and even made-up traditions.  Your wedding or event will be unique with its special and traditional elements, but chances are, we have seen something like it before, and will be prepared.   

Professional Association           

No true professional ever stops learning.  There is always something new - new equipment, new software, new techniques, new products and new trends.  We are members of several professional organizations (e.g., Professional Photographers of America, Wedding & Portrait Photographers International, and Vermont Professional Photographers).  We take advantage of their conferences, workshops, and specialized training to get better, to take our craft to the next level -- year after year producing better products and higher quality service, than we did the year before.   

Professional Ethics       

We live in challenging times - where the media floods us with one pitch after another.  Sometimes it is hard to sort out.  This is why we state up front, that we are not in it for the quick sale.  We want your referrals and return business.  For that we need your trust. 

As professionals we subscribe to a code of ethics to treat people fairly and honestly with integrity and respect.  It also means, for example, that we will not disparage our competitors, nor will we even talk to you, if you have already committed to one of our competitors.  What we will do, is explain our products, services, and terms as clearly as we know how, we will keep our commitments to the best of our abilities, and deliver what we promise.  As members in good standing of Professional Photographers of America and of Vermont Professional Photographers we specifically subscribe to their codes of ethics, published on their respective websites.    

Professional Solvency     

We have been in business as Ayer Photography of Vermont for over ten years. We are not a fly-by-night, here-today gone-tomorrow operation. We are in it for the long haul. We have founded our enterprise on sound business practices -- we pay our taxes, we meet our commitments, and we charge enough to pay all of our expenses, whether it is for equipment, advertising, insurance, training, or the materials and service to build your album. Oftentimes, wedding customers will hire us more than a year in advance of their wedding, and then not make their last selection until months after their ceremony. We have structured our business, so that we will be able to meet our commitments well into the future. Our customers deserve one less thing to worry about.

Posted by Warren and Linda    

Ayer Photography of Vermont         


Posted by ayerphoto at 3:48 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 8 October 2013 1:56 PM EDT
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Monday, 23 September 2013
A Stowe Fall Wedding At Trapp Family Lodge
Mood:  flirty
Topic: Weddings

We had long hoped for an opportunity to photograph a wedding at Trapp Family Lodge; and it arrived this year!  Our final wedding of the 2013 season took place just as autumn arrived on September 21, 2013.  It was a destination wedding, the couple arriving from out of state only two days before the wedding.  They were familiar with the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, having visited several times earlier.  

Even though they said the Green Mountains "were hills" compared to the Rockies, they still found them romantically perfect for their nuptials.  The weather was near perfect - not too hot, not too cool!  Fall was just arriving, with a few trees with advanced color, but most still fairly green.  

As we met with them the night before the wedding to scout out locations for some of their photographs, we walked through the Trapp Family garden across from the main lodge.  The sun was beginning to set to our backs to the west, as the moon rose in front of us to the east over the sunflowers.  

When you are up high like that on a clear evening when sunset and moonrise occur almost simultaneously, the moon takes on a very yellow-orange glow of harvest.  

We asked the couple where the ceremony would be held on the grounds and they said they had not yet decided.  So, we had to arrive early the day of the ceremony and call them to find out exactly where everyone would gather.  While such a laid back approach to wedding planning might not be practical with a huge wedding, this was a small intimate affair, making it far easier to be more relaxed and "go with the flow."  

The day of the wedding brought sunshine and light warm breezes.  It was a beautiful day in the Green Mountains.  As it turned out, the couple choose to have their small ceremony out behind the main lodge among the apple trees.  The Trapp Family staff had rustled up some branches from some of the trees with more mature color and added a few pumpkins and our fall decorations were complete.  As the appointed time approached, one key person was still missing - the officiant.  They had asked Rev. Bruce Comiskey from the Community Church in Stowe to perform the ceremony, but had neglected to tell him the exact site they had chosen.  

Wth the help of the Lodge staff, he soon found us and the two were joined in holy matrimony.  

One of the great things about a small wedding is that we wind up with a lot more time to photograph the newlyweds - instead of the sometimes daunting logistics of a mulitude of group formals that so often accompany very large weddings.  

And of course the beautful grounds of Trapp Family Lodge afforded us so many options for picturesque spots as we took our time.  

We even found a small pond to capture a reflection before the light failed us completely and we had to join the other guests inside.  

The reception was held inside the main lodge complex in the Strauss Room.  Dinner was served by the Trapp Family Lodge chefs.  I was particularly impressed with the corn chowder.  I never knew corn could taste so good.  Linda really loved the chicken that seemed to be soaked in maple syrup.  

Toasts and dancing followed dinner and then they cut the cake.  

It was a beautiful wedding on a beautiful fall day in the Green Mountains.  Perhaps you could say it was a "Sound of Music" day!

Of course it takes a team of people to pull off a great wedding celebration, even when it is small. Here are some of the professionals that worked together to make this day a delight!

Wedding Professionals:

All other photographs from this wedding are reserved for family and friends only in password protected galleries:

Posted by Warren       

Ayer Photography of Vermont                    


Posted by ayerphoto at 2:12 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 28 October 2013 3:24 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 11 September 2013
Vedic Wedding Ceremony
Mood:  special
Topic: Wedding Tips

In August of this year, we had an opportunity to photograph a Vedic (Hindu) wedding ceremony.  In fact you can see our blog post for that wedding on this blog under Weddings (Erik & Dimple).  Since that time, however, we have had some inquiries about the ceremony itself, since it is so different from a typical American ceremony, religious or civil.    

So, at the bride's suggestion, we decided to write another blog essentially describing the ceremony with photos, using the program as a guide.  So, rather than focusing on the love story of the bride and groom as we did in our regular posting, this one focuses on the Indian wedding customs and traditions, some of which are religious in origin and others from Indian culture.  While many Indian weddings can be a week-long series of events, the one we photographed was just two-days, beginning with Mehndi Night the evening before the wedding ceremony itself.

Mehndi Night

The night before a wedding is known as the 'Night of Henna” or Mehndi when the bride's hands and feet are decorated with elaborate designs.  The designs are usually floral with some signifying fertility.

I am told that there are a number of traditions associated with the henna.  The groom at the wedding we photographed told the assembled crowd of family and friends that the amount of henna the bride applies is indicative of how much she loves the bridegroom.  One of the guests also explained that how long the henna on the bride's hands lasts is indicative of how well she is cared for (it lasts longer if she does not have to do any chores),  Finally, I read on the web that in some cases the groom's name is hidden within the right palm of the bride, and he must find it before he is allowed to sleep on his wedding night.  

Clothing was of course traditional Indian.   

Wedding Day Attire

The next day saw all new traditional outfits for both the bride and groom.  Most interesting to western brides will be the fact that the Indian bride traditionally wears a red or maroon gown, rather than white.  I am told that in the Indian culture, white is usually reserved for funerals.  At an Indian wedding, the clothes are so colorful, the only flowers are usually just in petal form. 

As you might guess, it takes a very long time to get an Indian bride fully dressed and ready for the ceremony.  

Swagatam - Welcoming Groom

Once all is ready, the groom will arrive accompanied by his family and friends, where they are greeted by the bride's family and the priest.  

When all have arrived, they proceed in sort of a parade to the wedding location to the beat of an ancient Indian drum.  

At the entrance to the wedding location, the bride's family greets the groom.  The groom is fed sweets and then escorted to the spot where the wedding ceremony will take place.  

Antarpat - Curtain Ceremony

Once the groom is in place, a curtain is held up to block his view so he will be unable to see the bride's grand entrance.  The bride then enters, accompanied by four male members of her family. 

Only after the bride is in her spot on the Mandap, will the curtain be lowered and the groom be able to see his bride-to-be. 

 

Welcome & Invocation 

The priest welcomes both families and offers invocation prayers. 

Jaimala - Garland Exchange  

The bride and groom then exchange garlands of flowers, symbolizing their acceptance of matrimony.  

Offering of Sweets & Announcement

The bride's family then offers sweets to the groom, after which the priest invokes God's blessing and officially announces the wedding, inviting the guests to be witnesses.     

Kanyadaan - Giving Away The Bride

The groom is requested to accept the bride as an equal partner in his life. Water is poured over the groom's palms and flowing down onto the bride's. This is said to symbolize the continuity of the life cycle and passing of heritage to the next generation.    

Tying The Knot  

Attendants then tie the bride's and groom's clothing together symbolizing the bonding of the two together for all time.  

Pani-Grahan, Shilarohan, Lajahom

The priest then has the bride and groom recite a series of pledges and prayers, accepting each other as husband and wife. 

Mangal-Phere  

Next, while the priest chants hymns, the bride and groom walk around the fire seven times.  During this ceremony, the groom led the first three times around and the bride led the next three.  I heard someone suggest whoever leads the last time around will be the leader of the marriage.   

As the couple makes their way around, they are showered with rose petals. When they finally return to their seats, they switch places, so that the bride is now to the groom's left in order "to be nearer to his heart."

Seven Marriage Vows

The bride and groom walk seven steps. At each step they take another marriage vow. 

They conclude with an exchange of vows that include accepting each other's family as their own.

Sindoor, Mangalasutra & Ring Exchange

During this part of the ceremony, the groom applies vemillion powder in the part of the bride's hair, which in Indian culture indicates that she is now his wife. He then gives her a necklace, signifying good luck, love and friendship.    

While not normally a part of an Indian wedding, this couple chose to also exchange rings, as is common in most western weddings. 

Surya Darshan 

The Mandap is set up in such a way that as the bride and groom exit to the side, they will be taking their first steps together toward the sun, "that there may always be light shining on them."   

As the couple makes their departure, they may receive blessings from family and friends.

Following the ceremony the couple will change clothes again for the reception.  

The Vedic ceremony above was held on the terrace of the Sunset Ballroom in South Burlington, Vermont, overlooking Lake Champlain. All photographs are © 2013 Ayer Photography.

Posted by Warren

Ayer Photography of Vermont   

 

 

 


Posted by ayerphoto at 11:19 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 12 September 2013 9:18 AM EDT
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Sunday, 8 September 2013
Are You Ready For Some Football?
Mood:  energetic
Topic: Pix of Week

As fall is rapidly approaching we find ourselves in the mood to watch some live football.  Fortunately, we live near several high schools with football programs, so off we went.  It was also a chance to try some sports shots under fairly demanding conditions.  This is because the first two games were under the lights.  And unlike pro stadiums, these lights left a lot to be desired when attempting to stop action without a flash on a football field (from the bleachers). 

We read up on Scott Kelby's settings that he uses when shooting the Atlanta Falcons, but found our lighting not nearly as good as his.  As a result we could not push our shutter speeds over 1/1000 th for lack of light.  We also found like most sports, anticipation is crucial to have a chance of getting something dramatic. 

Our first game was that of Champlain Valley Union (CVU) playing Colchester High School at Colchester, Vermont.  Our grandson played in this game, so for some of the time I followed him and got this shot of him (#25) tackling the Colchester Laker runner.    

For the camera / photo enthusiasts, the shot specifics were:

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV

Lens: Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS USM with 1.4x Extender at 290 mm 

Exposure: 1/640 at f/4, and ISO 4000

Settings: Manual Mode, Parital Metering, no flash  

The resulting images had a fair amount of digital noise, especially since even with the aperture wide open they were still a bit underexposed.  We had to use Nik Software Dfine 2.0 to clean them up prior to posting.

Champlain Valley Union won this season opener, so we decided to follow them to their next game the following week.  That game was against the Essex Hornets at Essex.  These bleachers were set back a little further from the field and the resulting lighting from photography was worse.  In addition the Essex uniforms were a little darker making it more difficult to get a sharp focus.

The camera settings turned out to be similar, but we found a shutter speed of 1/800 worked a little better to stop action.  We also found ourselves panning much more in this game and had to switch the Image Stabilization to the panning mode to get a sharper image.  ISO was still at 4000, but we had to brighten images even more in post processing to make up for underexposure in camera. 

Essex took the lead early and maintained it most of the time through the third quarter, but only by a few points.    

In the fourth quarter in the waning minutes of the game CVU managed to get three interceptions, scored and turned the game around.  They then held them scoreless and finally ran the clock out to win the game. 

One of my favorite shots from that game is of the jubilant CVU coaches after the first interception and score that put CVU in the lead.  Don't they look happy?  

We are really looking forward to our first day game with real daylight to work with to see what we will get. 

If you would like to see some more of out shots from these games, check out these game galleries here:  

     CVU vs. Colchester       

     CVU vs. Essex      

Posted by Warren

Ayer Photography of Vermont          


Posted by ayerphoto at 4:49 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 9 September 2013 10:42 AM EDT
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Monday, 19 August 2013
The Advani-Shanks Vedic Wedding
Mood:  happy
Topic: Weddings

One of the great things about being a wedding photographer is getting to meet new people at a joyous event.  But occasionally you meet old friends when you least expect it.  Such was the case with our latest wedding. 

We first met the bride, Dimple, at Needleman's Bridal Expo.  She booked an appointment to come and talk to us in more detail, but it had to be out a ways after she returned from her trip to India.  That was our first hint that this wedding would be a little different than our usual fare.  For while we had photographed weddings in the past that incorporated Indian decorations or elements into their otherwise American / western weddings, this was our first where they incorporated only a couple American traditions into their otherwise Indian / Vedic wedding activities. 

Our second surprise was meeting so many old friends at the event itself.  It turned out that many of the bride's family had worked or still work at IBM.  And back long before I began Ayer Photography, back before I consulted with Eastman Kodak, and long before my IBM career took me out of Vermont and around the globe, we had worked side-by-side as young engineers - back when a million bits on a chip was a big deal!  So, it was a bit like a reunion - catching up on 30-plus years with friends you barely recognize, yet surprised at what you still remember.    

As we got to know Erik and Dimple, I asked them how they got engaged.  Dimple told me that after dating three years, she "knew he was the man (she) wanted to spend the rest of (her) life with."  It was on the occasion of their third anniversary together that Erik took Dimple on a surprise trip to New York City.  Erik kept trying to convince Dimple to go to the top of the Empire State Building, but her fear of heights held her back.  So, he was forced to go with his backup plan and proposed when they returned to their hotel.  Dimple described it as, "I couldn't believe it.  He was so sweet and he was so nervous!  But he proposed before he turned thirty, just as I wanted." 

She went on to say that the story of their engagement typified their courtship.  She said, "he goes with the flow and I always plan things.  But sometimes it is important to just let things happen.  Either way, it always works out with us - sometimes planned, sometimes going with the flow and realizing how being in the moment can become so special and show our true love for each other."  

When it came to the wedding, they chose to have it at the Sunset Ballroom overlooking beautiful Lake Champlain.  And facing west as it does will often experience a sunset when the weather cooperates.  They chose the weekend of August 17-18 as a way of honoring Erik's mother.  This was just one of many elements that made this a very family-centric wedding celebration. 

In keeping with her family traditions, Dimple had long dreamed of having an Indian Vedic wedding ceremony.  While there are almost as many variations as there are Indian dialects, she was able to incorporate several core traditions and rituals into her wedding. 

It began with Mehndi night, a celebration held at the Hampton Inn Champlain Ballroom in Colchester, Vermont.  Mehndi, or Henna, as it is sometimes known in the western world, refers to the creation of intricate decorative skin designs by the artistic application of henna paste.  The paste will create a temporary stain where applied to the skin as it dries.  The groom told those gathered at the celebration that the amount of henna the bride chose to have applied was traditionally proportional to how much love she has for her husband-to-be.  Tradition also has it, one of the guests explained, that how long the mehndi lasts is indicative to how well the bride is cared for after the wedding.      

When we went to photograph the bride getting ready, we found that the Hindu bride does not wear white (white in the Indian culture is usually reserved for funerals). Instead, her intricate gown is a bold red or maroon.  In fact all the clothing for an Indian wedding is boldly colored and intricately beaded.  So colorful is the clothing that flowers are only used in petal form or in garlands during the ceremony and as table decoration at the reception.  A western wedding is almost monochromatic by comparison.  

The wedding itself begins with Swagatam, or the welcoming of the groom.  The bride's family greets the groom and his family and then escorts him to the wedding location.  As the bride makes her entrance, the groom his hidden behind a curtain.  Only after she has made her grand entrance and is standing next to him, is the curtain finally removed. 

Parents and family play a much stronger and more visible role in a Vedic wedding than a typical western ceremony.  And parts of the ritual are quite beautiful and touching even for those of us who did not understand a word that was said (because it was all in a language foreign to us).  Food is exchanged, and garlands of flowers are exchanged, as are vows.  Normally, I am told, the groom places a necklace on the bride instead of the exchange of rings.  Erik and Dimple, however, did both.  

Following the ceremony, the bride changes into a third beautiful, intricate and heavy gown before joining the reception.  The reception was more familiar to those of us with more experience with western weddings.  Introductions, toasts, dinner, cutting of the cake and first dances are celebration elements common to most of the weddings we have photographed.  Because Erik's mother had passed away, he danced with his sister and announced he was dedicating an emotional dance to her memory.

 

As we went out on the roof to take a few portraits, the sun began to set.  And while not the most dramatic we have ever seen, the sky did grace us with a touch of orange to add its blessing to a great day!    

Of course it takes a fairly large team of people to pull off a great wedding celebration like Erik and Dimple's. Here are some of the professionals that worked together to make this day a delight!

Wedding Professionals:

To see additional photographs from Erik and Dimple's wedding-related events:

For more details about the wedding ceremony itself (and some of our photos), see our blog post regarding the Vedic Wedding Ceremony.

Posted by Linda & Warren


Posted by ayerphoto at 7:36 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 September 2013 3:56 PM EDT
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Friday, 16 August 2013
A Panoramic View
Mood:  spacey
Topic: Pix of Week

I had to go the Sunset Ballroom the other day to go over some plans for an upcoming wedding.  If you have never been there, it is worth a trip to stop in.  It is located on Shelburne Road in South Burlington on the top floor of the Comfort Inn Suites.  And when the weather cooperates you can walk out of the ballroom onto a rooftop patio with a great view of Lake Champlain, and on occasion, a sunset since you are facing west. 

After we had finished discussing all the arrangements for a complicated setup, I hung around on the roof for a while taking a few shots.  (Well, it was a sunny day, so I brought my camera - who wouldn't?)  It was way too early in the day for a sunset, in fact the light was still high enough to be a bit harsh, but I decided to try a hand-held panoramic shot. 

To do this you set the camera on manual and take a series of shots, such that they overlap, but when stitched together will form one very large panoramic file.  I had only tried this manually in the past, and only with a few images.  This time I took five and decided to test PhotoShop's automated PHOTOMERGE feature

Since it was so bright, I also used Nik Color Efex Detail Extractor on the raw files to bring out more details in the shadow and light extremes.  Once complete, it looks really weird shaped, so I then crop out the part of interest and fit it to the longest aspect ratio my lab will print in a standard size, which is 4:1.  Here is the end result - my panorama of Lake Champlain from the Sunset Ballroom.    

While this blog post is only a low res file, the original is huge and will easily print at full quality at over 5 feet wide and even more on canvas.

For the camera / photo enthusiasts, the shot specifics were:

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV

Lens: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L USM at 24 mm 

Exposure: 1/500 at f/9, and ISO 160

Settings: Manual Mode, Parital Metering, no flash

My past experiments with earlier generations of stitching software did not always produce pleasing results and too easily got confused as to how the images went together.  But this one did just fine, even in the distorted extremes that I cropped off.

So next time you are on the roof of a tall building, take the wide view. 

Posted by Warren   

Ayer Photography of Vermont       

 


Posted by ayerphoto at 7:24 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 16 August 2013 7:51 PM EDT
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Thursday, 8 August 2013
SmugMug Migration Live
Mood:  surprised
Topic: Ayer Photo Website

If you have been following our blog for a while, you know that website updates and particularly host platform changes have not gone well for us.  In one case it was an unmitigated disaster.  So, when our gallery / store host, SmugMug announced that it was launching a new platform, my first reaction was "Oh No!"  I was fully expecting to be dealing with bugs and features that did not live up to their promise for many long weeks.  I am happy to report.  No, make that extremely happy and relieved to report that that was not the case. 

Yes, there were lots of frustrating moments, and I still have them.  However, they were all related to my lack of experience with the new platform and my seeming aversion to making sure I am editing a single page and not all the pages at once.  They color coded the editing blocks and I still messed up way more times than I should have.  But I am getting better, especially after having to go through and undo so many inadvertent edits. 

The old SmugMug was little more than a database of galleries.  It was customizable, but only with a fair amount of coding knowledge that I never took the time to acquire.  So many of our customers probably never really understood what our gallery site looked like, because they just went directly to their gallery with a link and never looked around from there.  And we certainly did not encourage them, because it was not really conducive to casual browsing.  In addition there was minimal ability to incorporate text that would explain anything.  

The new SmugMug is now close to a complete photo-centric website platform.  It lacks some key functionality to be a complete solution, but we are able to distribute much more of our site to the SmugMug platform without forcing you to come back to our main site just to navigate to another gallery, for example.

So, only 8 days after the SmugMug launch and only 5 days after I started working on the migration, we have gone live with our new gallery site.  And it is more than just a new look.  We have completely reorganized our gallery structure, made it browsable by both prospective customers who want to see our portfolio, and current customers looking for the images from their session or event.  It addresses many questions right within the gallery site without having to return to the main site whenever text is required.

We hope you will take a look at it and let us know what you think.   

As with any major overhaul, some links had to change.  We have tried diligently to test all our gallery links and fix those that had to be changed.  But if you find one we missed, please let us know so we can correct the coding.

Now, without further adieu, here is a direct link to our new gallery site.

http://ayerphoto.smugmug.com 

Check it out!  We hope you like it!

Posted by Warren

Ayer Photography of Vermont                  

Ayer Photography Galleries                

Links:  

     Trey Ratcliff's full review         

     Scott Kelby's impressions                  


Posted by ayerphoto at 12:48 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 8 August 2013 1:28 PM EDT
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