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Danica and Alessandro

Dustin Abbott

September 1st, 2018

Danica and Alessandro chose the incredible Stonefields Estate outside of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada as the venue for their wedding.  This was pretty much a photographer’s dream for a number of reasons.  First of all, everything was self-contained on the estate.  I shot everything from the “getting ready” photos (in separate themed buildings) to the posed photos to the ceremony and reception all on the grounds.  It saves so much time (the worst thing for a photographer on a wedding day is to spend all of the photo time on travel and then have to rush through the photo sessions).  


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The second great thing about Stonefields is that everything is picturesque.  There’s a great mix of rustic and elegant that gives you options as a photographer.  Nothing feels stuffy or contrived, and the smart sense of decorating has obviously been done with photography in mind.  Little splashes of color here and there, like the red of the flowers on the table in the shot below, provide some color contrasts without it screaming at you.

The final ingredient that made this day easy was that the weather really cooperated.  The sun was shining and yet the temperature remained very temperate throughout the day.  The weather is very fickle here in Ontario, and there were very few days quite like this one.  Obviously this is incredibly important when doing an outdoor wedding.

It was a welcome change to not have to worry about cranking the ISO to retain a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action of people walking down the aisle.  This has gotten easier due to the great high ISO performance of modern cameras, but I still prefer the greater latitude of low ISO shots for editing.

On a gear front, I used a mix of Canon and Sony.  My primary camera for the day was the Canon 5D Mark IV, which is one of the best wedding cameras out there.  It’s tough, reliable, and takes great photos.  My one complaint is that it eats batteries faster than what any recent Canon pro-grade DSLR that I’ve used.  My review of it is here.  I shot two lenses on it throughout the day.  The first is the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II, a gorgeous lens that balances a great focal length with amazing optical performance.  I find 35mm to be incredible versatile for event settings, and the fact that I can easily shoot it at f/1.4 gives me the ability to play with the depth of field creatively.  I often use it for group and family shots, too.  My review of the lens is here.

The second lens is my bread-and-butter event lens – the Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 VC G2.  It’s reliable, has great AF, and produces nice results.  A lens like this is pretty much a requirement for shooting the ceremony, where it gives you the chance to quickly change framing on the fly.  I had an elderly gentleman approach me after the ceremony and tell me that I was the best photographer he had ever seen at a wedding.  He wasn’t saying that based on the images (he hadn’t seen any of them); he was referring to the fact that I was discrete during the ceremony and didn’t dominate the proceedings.  He recounted how a wedding he had attended the previous week had been ruined by the photographer always being in the way.  I suspect the photographer was trying to work with something like a “normal” lens (50mm), and had to “zoom with their feet” (something I’ve seen too often at weddings).  70-200mm f/2.8 lenses are big, heavy, and expensive, but are worth every bit of the weight, expense, and hassle if you are going to be a working professional.  Lenses like the Tamron I’m using help by giving you as good of results as first party lenses from Canon and Nikon at a much lower price point.  My review can be found here.

My primary second body carried on my Cotton Carrier harness system was my Sony a7R3.  (my review of the a7R3 is here)  One of the best things about the a7R3 is the combination of great resolution and dynamic range, which helped me in some of the challenging lighting conditions when shooting the smoke bomb sequences in the trees. 

This photo was actually quite dark to begin with due to the fact that I had been shooting with the Canon body and quickly switched over to the Sony for different framing.  Obviously you have a fairly narrow window of shooting opportunity before the smoke bomb dies off, so I wasn’t taking time to review the back of the screen (by the way, if you are interested in experimenting with smoke bomb photography, here’s a great article that will teach you the basics.)  I have solved the issue with my Metz 64 AF-1 flash units being designed for Canon E-TTL by just having a Yongnuo YN-622C-TX wireless command unit on the hotshoe of each camera, and then I put my flash units on separate channels with Yongnuo YN-622C wireless triggers mounted to the flashes.  I just put the flash command unit in Manual HSS (High Speed Sync) mode and control the power output from the TX command units.  This system seems to work well, and allows me to make quick adjustments on the fly and not worry about shutter speed due to being in HSS mode.  Because the flash units are wirelessly controlled, I just use a few assistants (or even a few helpful volunteers from the wedding party) to hold my lights at the height/angles that I want.  I help shape and soften the lights by using the Lite Genius Super-Scoops on them (you can see my video review of these light modifiers here:).  I had last used the Sony in a different setting, however, and I didn’t realize I needed to turn up power to the flashes for these shots…until I reviewed them after the smoke bomb had died off.  The great news was the dynamic range of the Sony a7R3 made it easy to recover the image and turn it into a beautifully dynamic shot that was one of my personal favorites from the day.  I had a similar recover on the shot below, as my assistant holding the flash on the left side of the group had gotten distracted and wasn’t pointing their flash unit in the right direction, leaving the bridesmaid on the left side of the image severely underexposed.  No problem.  A little selective exposure addition and shadow recovery in post, and the end result is very cool.

I used a total of three different lenses on the a7R3:  the Laowa 15mm f/2 Zero D for the wide angle/interior shots.  It shines in this setting due to being very sharp, having extremely low distortion, and is also wonderfully compact, making it an easy lens to bring along.  You can see my review here.

I used the fabulous Sony Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 as my standard lens for the day.  It is fantastic for delivering incredible color and contrast along with fantastic resolution even at wide apertures.  I thought some of these veranda shots of the couple using the lens looked fantastic.  You can find my review here.

My favorite lens of the day to use, however, was the amazing Voigtländer APO-Lanthar 65mm f/2 Macro lens (my review here).  It’s a manual-focus-only lens, so I had to be more deliberate in my use of it (and selective of when I used it), but the combination of color, resolution, and contrast is just fabulous.  It sucks in light and produces stunning images that I viewed as being some of the most special of the day. 

It was also a great option for shooting the up close images of rings and bouquets.  

All in all, between a great venue, great gear, and a cheerful bride and groom, I had little to complain about and came away with a lot of images that I’m proud of and the bride and groom adore.  Congrats to Danica and Al!

Here are more images for you to enjoy!

Keywords:  Wedding, Stonefields, Stonefields Estate, Dustin Abbott, Photography, Thousand Word Images, Bride, Groom, Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 5Div, Canon 5D4, Sony a7R3, Sony a7riii, Tamron 70-200 G2, Canon 35LII, Canon 35mm f1.4L, Sony Planar 50mm, Zeiss, Voigtlander, Laowa, Smoke Bombs, How To, Tips, Wedding Photography Tips


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