I once heard a saying that ‘diabetics are naturally sweet’. After my latest photoshoot with Mattie, I couldn’t agree more.
As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, my wife works at the Children’s Diabetes Foundation in Colorado. She has worked there on and off for a little over 10 years. She loves her job and loves helping the organization raise money for diabetes research and services for diabetic children. One of her co-workers, Mattie, is diabetic. I honestly cannot remember how the conversation started, but it ended with Mattie and I collaborating on some images that she could hopefully use on social media to further educate the general public on diabetes.
Since I am not diabetic, I know nothing about diabetes other than what I might randomly hear on the news or from a conversation I might overhear at work. During our shoot, I learned more about diabetes than I imagined I would. But my intent is not to educate you on diabetes. If you are looking for that information, please visit the Children’s Diabetes Foundation. They are a remarkable source of information and support. In fact, you can follow Mattie’s blogs on their site as well. My intent is to show the never ending routines some diabetic individuals must deal with on a day to day basis. Although I hope the organization can use the images to further their cause, I think it’s also important to see the side of it most of us do not know about. What better way to do that than with images.
I think when most people hear the term ‘diabetes’, they instantly think of pricked fingers and insulin shots. But as I found out during our shoot, there is far more to it than that. I hate needles, always have, and I’m willing to bet most people feel the same way. My intent was to get some simple diabetes related images first and to save the finger pricking for the last few images of our session so she didn’t have to endure the pain throughout the whole shoot. I would term my thought process now, as ‘diabetic ignorance’. She brought a lot of equipment we could work with for the shoot and she explained how everything worked, including pricking her finger right there on the spot! I was blown away! Something I was trying to protect her from until the end of the shoot, she had done in the first few minutes without hesitation or concern. Not only did I reaffirm in that instant that I am a whimp, I also learned the strength Mattie has discovered in herself from years upon years of dealing with diabetes. But there’s more….
She used the shoot as a time to document the entire process she goes through on a routine basis. She demonstrated how she installs monitors.
Click on the images for larger pictures
She also demonstrated how she installs her insulin pump.
…and the foods she eats when she needs sugar. I also learned that she indeed can eat sugar, something I always thought diabetics were not supposed to do. Again, diabetic ignorance.
Lastly, we ended with the quintessential finger prick and blood test. In all honesty, she wanted an image showing all of her fingers pricked but I wanted a more close-up and personal image just using a single finger. I can’t imagine purposely pricking one finger, let alone all of them.
I simply had no idea what most diabetics go through. Mattie has a strength I think most of us will never know or understand. Hopefully through these images, those of us with diabetic ignorance can at least begin to understand what she goes through day in and day out. Most of my shoots are about trying to capture great images, and I think we got some great ones, but this shoot felt more like photo journalism – albeit a simple form. I was simply trying to capture the truth of the moment regardless of how it looked. Mattie is an amazing, beautiful, strong, and incredibly sweet individual that has changed how I personally view diabetes. Out of all of the shoots I have done to date, I am most proud of these images because of what they stand for – resilience and strength. Besides learning A LOT about diabetes and finding a new appreciation for those that have to deal with it, I may have stumbled across a new model that’s interested in some extreme ideas! Hopefully you’ll be seeing more images from my newly discovered photogenic diabetic, Mattie, soon!
So you want to shoot a wedding? You better bring your ‘A’ game. Weddings are work. A lot of work. Typically I advise people that the equipment is secondary to being able to create good compositions and understanding light. Well, much like astrophotography, weddings are a different breed. If you’re lucky, the wedding you want to photograph will be outside on a nice overcast day, but if your wedding is inside, or both inside and outside, you better have the appropriate gear.
I highly recommend having a full frame camera, or even a medium format camera if you can afford it. Although crop sensor cameras and micro four thirds cameras are getting better and better with low light photography, they simply can’t compare to the light gathering capabilities of a full frame sensor. Can you still get decent images with a micro four thirds or a crop sensor camera at a wedding? Sure, but you better have good glass. A wedding is not the time to discover you cannot get good images because of the lack of decent equipment.
Most photographers that do weddings on a regular basis will typically carry two camera bodies and at least 3 lenses. A good macro lens is crucial for those detail shots, like the wedding rings or details on the cake. A good fixed focal length lens such as a 50mm or 85mm are good choices as well for some portrait type shots. For wedding venues that aren’t all that large, a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens is going to be your workhorse. If your venue is larger and you want to get good close-up images from a distance, I would strongly recommend something like a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.
I was recently asked by a very good friend to be the photographer for his daughter’s wedding. Weddings are not my first choice for a fun weekend shoot, but as anyone that follows me knows, I love a challenge and I try my best to stay outside of my comfort zone. Shooting this wedding was the furthest out of my comfort zone I have ever been. Since I did not have a decent constant aperture lens, I rented the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. I am hoping to do a separate review of this lens but long story short, it’s amazing! I knew this lens would give me the reach I needed because I visited the venue about a month before the wedding. DO THIS!! If you are going to shoot a wedding, especially indoors, go look at the venue before the wedding so you know exactly what you will need. Besides the 24-70mm zoom, I already had a prime 50mm lens and a macro lens as well. Roughly 90% of the wedding I shot with the 24-70mm lens, and almost exclusively closer to the 2.8 aperture.
After having the fastest lens you can get, you’re left with two options to get the correct exposure; ISO and shutter speed. To avoid motion blur for moving subjects, you need to set your shutter speed to at least 1/125 of a second or faster. Even with a fast lens, this is a relatively short exposure time. You will have no choice but to bump up your ISO. This is where a full frame camera will pay dividends. The higher you set your ISO, the more noise you will start getting in your images. A crop sensor camera and a micro four thirds camera will have to bump up their ISO much higher to get the same exposure as a full frame camera at a lower ISO setting. At this point, you will simply have to experiment with your ISO and shutter speed to capture the best images possible.
For an indoor reception, there is simply no getting around the need for a flash, either on camera or off. I know some photographers that will carry the flash in one hand and the camera in another to avoid those flat looking images you get with an on-camera flash. If you are going to use an on-camera flash, try every angle for bouncing the flash off of other surfaces before aiming the flash right at your subject. If you must aim the flash at your subject, at the very least, get some type of diffuser to aid in eliminating harsh shadows.
Aside from equipment, a wedding is very demanding. It is a long day constantly on your feet and moving around. If you are thinking about shooting a wedding, volunteer as a second camera for a wedding or two before you go as the primary photographer. Do this not so much to learn how to get great images, but more for understanding the flow of a wedding and how fast they actually progress. By being a second camera for a few weddings before your own, you will learn some posing techniques and how other photographers lead couples and crowds, but the biggest benefit is seeing the flow of an entire wedding from the perspective of a photographer from beginning to end.
I am honestly on the fence as to whether or not I will do more weddings, but if you are thinking about doing a wedding, properly prepare yourself – both mentally and with the proper equipment. Find a wedding photographer that doesn’t mind having a second camera helping out and get that experience. You never know. Simply volunteering for a wedding may help you make up your mind if it is something you really want to do. I can honestly say that, besides the chaos of the wedding itself, I found myself smiling far more during editing than I have with any other shoot. There are some really tender, touching, and funny moments during a wedding. Capturing those moments of time forever in an image is very rewarding. Read as many blogs as you want and watch as many videos as you can, but nothing beats personal experience. If you want to experience a wedding behind the camera, do it! Just be prepared. There are no do-overs!
Keep the interesting parts of life in focus.