Shooting a pandemic wedding in m43!

I will begin by confessing that I am not a wedding photographer. The prospect of capturing such a milestone event to a couple’s satisfaction is both daunting and chilling. I’ve been a health care provider for 30 years and only recently have I become confident in managing my patients’ expectations at treatment outcomes, but I don’t have another 30 years to learn the same for wedding photography. However, 2020 was a special year and I personally knew the couple and they needed a photographer and I did it as a favor in lieu of an expensive wedding present. In the end, I think everyone was happy and I was gratified to receive unsolicited praise from wedding guests who had seen the earlier engagement images. So I thought I’d share the experience.

The first wave of the pandemic had significantly receeded during the hot summer that is typical of Toronto and the city’s daily positive test cases had fallen to the low double digits for a city of 3 million. The city began to relax some of the social restrictions and this couple was eager to be married this year, which in Canada means September would be the earliest and the latest month to accomplish this event after deciding in June. In a normal year this would have been frankly impossible since venues are typically reserved years in advance for weekend dates. They were able to arrange the ceremony on short notice because of all the cancellations and the reception was held completely outdoors (and capped at a maximum of 50 guests) which was possible given the continued summer weather well into September.

We arranged to meet at a scenic public park in July to shoot some engagement photos. I was carrying 3 cameras on my Cotton Carrier and one in hand.

Screen Shot 2021-03-01 at 2.01.02 PM
From left to right, Olympus E-500 Monochrome DSLR with Leica 25mm f/1.4, Lumix GM1 with Laowa 7.5 mm, E-M1.2 with Sigma 85mm f/1.4 and Metabones Speedbooster (effectively 60mm f/1.0) & E-M1X with Sigma 20mm f/1.4 and Metabones Speedbooster (effectively 14mm f/1.0)

I had scouted some scenic sites in the park midweek because we only had a two hour window before an important family luncheon. I had been reading wedding photography books and wedding magazines to get some ideas for poses but foremost in my mind was to capture that giddy happiness early in a relationship before the pressures of life manage to squeeze it all out through the cracks.

E-M1X, Sigma 14mm f/1.0 1/500s ISO 100


I then asked the groom to stick his tongue in his bride’s ear and their reaction was what I really wanted to capture.


E-M1X Sigma 14mm f/1.0 1/800s ISO100


Pandemic traffic was a gift, allowing us to monopolize this normally busy intersection


And sometimes if you have a cool car you need to toss that into the mix to get a fresh pose.


Jim Chung (c) 2020
The groom and his groomsmen acting just like a bunch of guys would act except I crystallized it into a real memory.


Jim Chung (c) 2020
The more mature bride and bridesmaids made sure I documented the hung wedding dress and the shoes, with a diffraction filter to accentuate the rhinestones.


Jim Chung (c) 2020
Some contrasting post ceremony shots of the newly married couple.

Jim Chung (c) 2020

Jim Chung (c) 2020
The zero gravity veil was achieved by having one of the bridesmaids lift it high over her own head before stepping out of the scene.


Jim Chung (c) 2020
And at the very end of the night I pulled off this image by zip tying the flash inside the umbrella bracing and wirelessly firing it.  A groomsman emptied a bottle of water through a perforated lid and duct taped to a long extension pole.


The weather was still hot and beautiful the following weekend so we headed downtown to the University of Toronto to take advantage of some beautiful Victorian architecture. Unfortunately the pandemic worked against us because some gates and doors normally open were locked because the campus was closed.


We headed to one of the beaches along the shores of Lake Ontario for some final images.

So most of the wedding photos are documentary in nature, capturing all the family members and as many of the guests as possible.  They don’t allow much room for creativity but keep the wedding photographer busy all evening long.  You want to shoot with all your fastest lenses to maximize your background bokeh isolation.   One wide field lens for all the formal group shots and one semi telephoto lens for those candid portraits of the audience members during the ceremony and of the guests during the dinner reception.

We were lucky.  Some weddings resulted in many new positive Covid 19 tests and a subsequent 14 day quarantine for all attendees.  By late October infection rates had shot up again and the city itself was approaching a thousand new cases every day before another total lockdown was announced in December and continues to this day in Toronto.


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