Speedliter's Blog is beyond stoked to feature phenomenal engagement photos by Boulder, Colorado-based husband and wife team Jesse & Moira La Plante. Speedliter's Blog selects featured photographers because we believe something about their skill, process, or work will inspire and educate our audience. It is an understatement to say that Jesse & Moira's images check all our "boxes." Everything from their photos, to their website, to client interaction is handled with care and purpose. And the results speak for themselves.
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What gear did you bring to this shoot?
Jesse: I come from a family of photographers and started using Nikon cameras at a very young age. They’re what I grew up with and what I’m comfortable with. I’m not a big gearhead by any means and I truly believe that the “best” camera is the one that works best for you. After all, it’s not about which tool you use; it’s about how you use it.
Jesse: I tend to shoot at extreme focal lengths to force myself to view things from a different perspective. I’m frequently shooting 14mm or 200mm just to get as far away as possible from what the human eye sees. Even so, I always bring my 24-70 as a “walking around” lens.
LIGHTS: Godox AD200
Jesse: As wedding photographers, we’re often tasked with shooting portraits in the middle of the day. Speedlights generally aren’t powerful enough to combat the sun. We also need to move freely and work quickly on location. Studio lights can be cumbersome in these situations. The AD200 is the happy medium between the two. MODIFIERS: MagMod MagBox Jesse: MagMod is by far the quickest and easiest system on the market. The MagBox, MagSphere, MagGrid and MagGels are our most frequently-used modifiers. They attach to our lights with magnets and can be easily stacked in any combination.
STANDS: CheetahStand Jesse: The legs on CheetahStands collapse automatically when you pick them up, which is great if you have to quickly move lights or pick them up and use your stand as a monopod/pole.
How did you approach this shoot from a planning perspective?
MOIRA: The planning for this particular session started a few years before the couple was even engaged. We keep a running “photo bucket list” of interesting activities and locations that we want to photograph and then we use that list to match an idea with a couple’s personality. The Bonneville Salt Flats had been on this list for years waiting for the perfect couple. In this case, the bride was a fellow wedding photographer in Colorado and so we wanted to go further afield to get away from areas that felt like “work” to her.
Once we narrowed down our list of ideas for them, the necessary administrative tasks started: finding three open days in our schedules, arranging travel, discussing attire, determining which whiskey we wanted to sample while we waited for the sun to go down, etc. And, of course, filling out all the paperwork to get the proper photo permit for BLM land. We love to feature awe-inspiring views in our photography and many of those are on public land. Getting the proper permit is often hard and confusing work, but we feel that it’s important to support and protect these areas.
What were you thinking when you staged each photo?
JESSE: I could probably write 50,000 words on astrophotography, but I’ll just hit the key points here. We always start with ambient light before thinking about posing and flash. I set my camera up on a tripod, dial in a long shutter and use a shutter release cord to reduce camera shake. Once I get a decent shot of the night sky, we bring the couple into the frame and ask them to hold still for the entirety of the exposure. We then flash the couple at the end of the exposure using rear-curtain sync to freeze them in the frame.
SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 25 seconds - f/2.8 - ISO 2500
JESSE: I liked how long the road was in this location (the Bonneville Salt Flats are where folks go to set new land speed records), so I wanted to incorporate it into one of the photos. I placed my camera on the pavement to get a low angle and zoomed in to 200mm to compress the background and make the mountains appear closer than they actually were. I also really wanted to play up the dichotomy of the couple’s nice clothing juxtaposed with the rugged desert setting. It reminded me of the opening scene of The Hangover when the protagonists wake up in the middle of the desert still wearing their party clothes from the night before.
SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 1/250th - f/6.3 - ISO 64
JESSE: Since we spent the majority of the day shooting on the Salt Flats, we wanted to change up the location a bit to get a little more variety. We drove a couple miles up into the mountains to snag this 200mm shot looking back down onto the desert floor. I’m a huge movie buff and this area reminded me a bit of the old Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns of the mid-20th century. I wanted to show the scope of the landscape and the couple’s place within it.
SHUTTER/APERTURE/ISO: 1/250th - f/2.8 - ISO 64
What software did you use for post-production & retouching?
JESSE: Adobe Camera Raw for raw processing (color, contrast, sharpening, etc.) and Photoshop for retouching (primarily removing light stands).
What do you like most about the final images? Is there anything you would do differently next time?
MOIRA: In every shoot, we strive for as much variety as possible—not only within the shoot itself but also when compared to all of our past sessions. This location delivered a ton of bang for our buck with a huge variety of interesting landscapes in relatively close proximity to one another. Even better, I don’t have to take it off our photo bucket list because that area will look completely different depending on the time of year and the weather. So the next time we head that direction, we’ll do everything completely differently!
Where can photogs see more of your work?