Kathryn And Sam's Wedding At Camrose Hill Flower Farm in Stillwater, MN by Bradley Hanson

Kathryn and Sam got married at the lovely Camrose Hill Flower Farm in Stillwater, MN, about 30 minutes outside of Minneapolis. It was my first time there, but I fell in love with the secluded venue and most of all, the lovely light. The ceremony was outdoors in an area surrounded by trees, so the diffused light from above on the dark, windy morning was like a studio softbox.

3 Winning Images In The Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA) Photo Contest by Bradley Hanson

The Wedding Photojournalist Association, created by David Roberts, a newspaper photojournalist, was started to give photojournalists who photographed weddings a forum and to give brides and grooms a resource to find photographers shooting in this reality based unposed style. I first became a member of the WPJA in 2002.

I hadn't entered a contest since 2009, and since I had an unusually busy winter, decided to enter. I was honored to have these three images recognized in the last contest, bringing my total to 22 WPJA awarded images over the years.

Outerfocus Photography Podcast Episode 15! by Bradley Hanson

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A little over 6 months ago, UK photographer Ian Weldon asked me if I would co-host his new photography podcast with him. Ian is a funny guy, brutally honest, a talented photographer and an all around good egg. He and I "met" online many years ago through a disagreement. I respected the way he handled himself in sharing his opinion without emotional complications, and we stayed in touch. I respect his work and his approach. 

I had no idea how the podcast would go other than the basic concept: Each week, we invite a current photographer who's portfolio we love to chat with us about their work AND discuss a photographer in history about their role in pushing the boundaries and/or moving photography forward. 

This has had a number of positive benefits, including refreshing myself with the originators of photography from the early 1800s onwards. We started with Daguerrotypes and recently covered Mathew Brady (best known as THE Civil War photographer), as well as Eadweard Muybridge (who dabbled in animation and taught us how horses run through cameras he built himself). 

We talk about everything: the things we love about photography, the photographers and photography books that we found inspirational, and the good and bad about the current state of the industry. Ian and I both shoot weddings, but we have been conscious about getting a diverse group of photographers from other kinds of photography so we can get a wide range of work and opinions.

There is a lot of laughter during conversations that are often highly philosophical, and that's made the weekly ritual even more enjoyable. I don't pretend to have all the answers. While I've had 18 years of experience shooting professionally, I will always consider myself a student of the medium and am always seeking to improve and deepen my understanding of both the craft and the world.

We started a weekly tradition where I ask each guest what photography book was the first one they ever bought, or what was the most inspirational book to them. Ian has been building a "library" of these books on the Outerfocus website, divided between Amazon UK and Amazon US sites. If you buy one of these books through the link, you pay the same price, but we get a tiny reward to help us continue the podcast. It's a great list so far and a useful resource for discovering the work of photographers you might not be familiar with. In a world where more and more things are moving online, physical media, particularly photography books, can be even more rewarding as they don't require power or a password and they aren't subject to obsolescence from being in unreadable formats...

I feel grateful to be a part of this podcast, and while it can be complicated chatting with photographers in 3 separate time zones, it continues to be significantly more engaging and rewarding than I could have imagined.

To listen to the current episode (or any of the 15 thus far), follow this link or subscribe for free via iTunes. If you enjoy the podcast, don't be afraid to leave an honest review and let us know what you liked and what you didn't, including what you'd like to hear or photographers you'd love to listen to.

Thanks for listening!

 

Behind The Scenes: The Role of Lighting by Bradley Hanson

In photography, light is everything, even over composition. Light can dictate composition, control mood and determine where the eye is drawn to in any frame. The difference between a memorable image and a forgettable one is usually the role of light in altering how that photograph is perceived.

There are a number of reasons I didn't use flash in this image:

1. It would have destroyed the sense of depth.

2. It would have removed the most important component: the light on the groom's face, projected from the DJ's spinning lights, as well as minimizing the halo of lights from the ceiling.

3. A little movement is more romantic to me than harsh two dimensional lighting, particularly with dancing. In this case, I was handholding 1/15th of a second at f2.

4. Evening out the light with a pop of flash would have made the bride's back white, losing the importance of the eye light on the groom and the contour of her right bicep.

5. Because the groom removed his black jacket and is only wearing a white shirt, flash would have removed the contrast between his shirt and the shadow on his wife's back.

6. Using supplemental light would have also ended my ability to be invisible to the couple in this scene. The darker the room, the wider the pupils. Low light flash, in conjunction with dilated pupils means your bride and groom are seeing stars after only one shot. This is not a recipe for success or getting a good second shot.

While I prefer to work without flash, sometimes it is not only required, but like natural light, well-used flash can make or break an image.

This film image was used by Women's Health Magazine in April of 2009 as a double-page spread about life after marriage. The editor that contacted me about using it specifically cited the light on the groom's face as conveying the mood she was looking for with the text of the article.

Inspiration by Bradley Hanson

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Artists and photographers often talk about being inspired by other artists, usually in terms of an artist's body or work or a specific book. I had a moment like that in 1988 when I bought a Ralph Gibson book called "Tropism" at the Walker Art Center bookshop. I had taken various art and photography classes at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and had been exposed to the usual Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Klein, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, etc that are discussed in photography classes. I opened the book "Tropism" and suddenly I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up as the wave of excitement washed over me. The tightly composed, minimalist, high contrast B&W images reverberated with me in a way that nothing else had. 

I was already shooting with a 50mm lens. I didn't feel like I was doing anything compelling with it, but I stuck it out, trying to improve. After seeing the Gibson book, I suddenly saw the 50mm as a very exciting option, in stark contrast to it's reputation as a "normal" (and therefore, unexciting) lens. Seeing Ralph's work opened my eyes to the possibilities with this lens, and while I lived in a very different world that Gibson's NYC photographs, I started getting closer to my subjects and composing to crop out extraneous and non-essential visual components. Being exposed to what was possible transformed this seemingly bland lens into an exciting tool of limitless possibilities.

In the mid 1980s, film cameras (we just called them "cameras" at the time) were either sold as bodies or with the 50mm lens as kits. When I bought my first camera at age 15, the Minolta X-700, I bought the 50mm f1.7 with it using the money from my first paycheck ever.

My first photographs, of course, were breathtakingly bad. I stuck with it, eventually shooting for my high school newspaper, yearbook and every chance I could get with my normal life. I carried a camera everywhere with me, a practice I still continue to this day despite shooting most photographs with my iPhone 7 Plus. 

Because I wasn't yet moved by my own photographs, I naively assumed that the real problem was the 50mm lens. I loved cinematography and noticed that most images, particularly in Kubrick's movies, were taken with wide angle lenses and to a lesser degree, telephoto lenses. I didn't think I'd ever get where I wanted to be with a 50mm lens. This would later prove to be false, but that was my thinking at the time. It's a common misconception: new equipment and new lenses almost never inspire new work or new ways of seeing. One exception was the Hasselblad XPAN, a panoramic film camera that yields 65mm x 24mm negatives on 35mm film, but that's a story for another time.

Enter the 28mm lens. My first successful image with this focal length was also the first image I ever sold.

 Duluth, MN (1989)

Duluth, MN (1989)

Anyway, back to our story.

I was repeatedly seeing Garry Winogrand's work in various books (keep in mind, there was no internet to Google search) and knew he worked primarily with a 28mm. His work, at the time, looked messy and sloppy to me, devoid of compositional purpose. Some of this was my own way of processing that it was simply too much information for me. I was attracted to the minimal, clean, simple compositions I had seen in "Tropism."

Many years later, on another visit to an art exhibit and another trip to the Walker Art Center bookshop, I stumbled across a book called "1964" by Garry Winogrand. First of all, it had a beautiful, clean, vibrant, cold-tone color cover with a family seemingly picnicking in space (White Sands, New Mexico) that grabbed me immediately. I had no idea who they were or why they were in the middle of nowhere, but I couldn't stop looking at it. I didn't even notice the name "Winogrand" because I was so captivated by the photograph. It contains nearly 200 photographs, but I excitedly thumbed through it and bought their only copy, based mostly on the cover. I still have that book to this day.

This is not only one of the best books of photography I have to this day, but the cover image alone has deeply imprinted in my brain and affected the way I see the world. I think of the image often and some of it's compositional elements have snuck their way into my own work.

As always, I look forward to the next book or image to do that. Just like music, there is a feeling that comes from a photograph where all notes hit in the right place and you suddenly feel like the world is a wonderful place.

In the Outerfocus podcast I do weekly with UK photographer Ian Weldon, I ask each guest what photography book they bought first or what book changed the way they look at photography. What book was the most important to the way you see the world?

To listen to the podcast, follow this link or look up Outerfocus on iTunes. We also have links to the books Ian, myself and the guest photographers have recommended during the podcast.

The image below wasn't my first published image, but I was surprised that it was a contest winning image in the 2004 PDN "Top Knots" wedding contest. Also taken with a 28mm lens on film, lit only with sparklers.

 Seattle, WA (2001)

Seattle, WA (2001)

This article was also published at outerfocuspodcast.com

Marcus and Paige's Guthrie Theater Winter Wedding in Downtown Minneapolis by Bradley Hanson

Paige and Marcus insisted on all B&W coverage. In other words, my dream wedding (despite 3F degree January winter weather). They started at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist church and the reception was at the modern Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis, overlooking the Mississippi River and Stone Arch Bridge. The reception area, on the 9th floor of the Guthrie, is known as the "amber box" because of it's dark yellow glass and bright red lights bathing it in light.

OUTERFOCUS: UK Photographer Ian Weldon and I are doing a weekly Photography podcast by Bradley Hanson

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UK photographer Ian Weldon and I have been working on a podcast called Outerfocus that focuses on photographic history and current photography rather than merely equipment. Each week, we discuss a historic photographer with a current photographer. We talk about the good, the bad, the ridiculous and everything in between. We are still working out the format, but considering we are on different continents, it’s been working very well and gets better every week. Episode 1 is up and new shows will be posted every Wednesday. Like the Outerfocus page to see the links to listen or find us on iTunes. The Facebook page will have links and photographs we reference in the discussions each week. Thanks for listening and if you like it, feel free to leave feedback or a review on iTunes.

You can find the podcast HERE or by searching for "Outerfocus" on iTunes

Winter Road Trip From Minneapolis To Duluth, Grand Marais And Grand Portage, MN by Bradley Hanson

With warmer than usual temperatures, it was time to go north for the beautiful terrain and wide open sense of space and coastal views of Lake Superior near the Canadian border.

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