“Starry, starry night. Paint your palette blue and gray…” Those are the words that come to mind when I look back at this photo. Evidently Don McLean wrote “Vincent,” but I always knew it from the NOFX cover version.
We were fortunate enough to be hired by a wonderful couple who happened to be getting married in a unique location: Juniper Well Ranch just outside Prescott, Arizona in an area known as Skull Valley. The landscape is rich with juniper trees and incredible boulder piles for miles in every direction. We met our clients at the location many months before the wedding, and we were immediately inspired, barely able to contain our excitement at the opportunities that would present themselves on the wedding day.
Fast forward to a few weeks before the wedding. I had stumbled upon an app known as PhotoPills, which shows where to find the milky way, moon rise, and many other useful tools for shooting at night. I realized we had a perfect opportunity on the night of the wedding, and using this handy-dandy app, it would likely go pretty well!
The day of the wedding we always like to set up a few night shots, so we let our clients know we’ll be stealing them away from their reception once or twice for a couple of minutes to try and pull off something cool! Our MagMod gear has made this process incredibly efficient now, allowing for setup and tear down in a matter of seconds.
We scouted around and realized the beautiful cabin – where the bride had gotten ready earlier in the day – would make for a perfect element to help give the image something to anchor against the skies. Knowing we were going to do a long exposure, we went inside and turned all of the lights off save for one lamp, which lit the entire room in a soft glow.
Back outside, we took a few test shots to make sure we liked the ambient we were getting. We used a tripod as we wanted 20 seconds of exposure for this shot, giving us an incredible amount of stars. With the reception going on about 100 meters behind us, we also got a nice amount of ambient light to bring out the trees and light the cabin a bit.
We grabbed the couple, got them posed, and JoAnne stood just out of frame with one of our Yongnuo YN560IV flashes at 1/1 power, mounted with a MagGrid and MagSphere, at the ready. I pressed the shutter release, and after about a 15 count JoAnne quickly stepped in, manually fired the flash, and stepped out, giving us an effective second curtain sync on the flash. Though a bit unorthodox, we like to do things this way as it works nicely for us.
The resultant image turned out pretty cool, with countless stars, a somewhat mysterious cabin beckoning to you with a warm embrace, and a beautiful couple tying it all together.
If you want to learn more about our technique, workshops, mentoring, and WPPI appearances check out redhotworkshops.com.
Equipment: Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm Art Series Lens, Yongnuo YN560IV Flash, MagGrid, MagSphere Settings: f/1.6, 20 sec., ISO-400