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Wedding Photography Rule 1: Know your environment

Know your environment. This rule is a must for every photographer who has been commissioned to cover an event. And on this note, I failed while covering Uzoma and Ijeoma’s wedding. The discussions about covering the event were a bit rushed over. I knew the date, the town, and that was it. Every other detail that mattered was washed over, as though I would enter the event and shoot it like a war photographer-taking things as they unfold!

I should have visited the venue of the wedding and reception prior to the day of the event. Another thing that worked badly against me was the fact that that was the day for environmental sanitation fixed by Rivers State government, and so movement was restricted from 7am-10am. This was something I really wish the bride had told me, as she lived in the town. So I missed her make-up session- some event photographers here seem to include-the period of transformation of the bride from regular Jane to Goldilocks (or whatever it is that Nigerian chics turn into on their wedding day. It is a given that they become Adamma on the day of their traditional marriage, false lashes and gloss included) But I am yet to see an ugly bride, with or without make-up! The bright coloured flowing gown transforms them into princesses. Ijeoma looked regal (and a bit mad at me for missing the make-up session?) and Sir Waks was on point-the quintessential GQ man. I reached the venue of the wedding with my travelling bag and equipment, looking very much like a war photographer. From that moment on, I knew I had to work the event from special angles. After all, there was the encumbrance of the other photographer from Studio 24. Now another thing about extra photographers( apart from all the other ‘photographers’ with their blackberry and IPad etc. who want to get the best shots, and thereby make the professional photographer’s work more difficult), the bride and groom must be take into account that they must pose twice, or thrice if they have hired three photographers. The couple must get cues from all photographers before rushing into other poses. This post is sounding so like ‘all the things that could go wrong photographically’, but I had fun. I love working on edge, alert to the stolen shots, the unguarded moments when people let down their masks. I kept changing lenses, turning and bending, twisting my tripod, clicking the camera and working the flash-it was war. I loved the Cathedral at Port Harcourt-the high walls and stained glass added sparkling colour to the wedding ceremony, and the chandeliers illuminated the church dramatically. I am a stickler for getting the ambient light of any environment I work in. That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t see whoever is decorating the venues about the lighting and sitting arrangements! The space may actually hinder the photographer from getting those magical shots. So, the photographer must be introduced to the decorators prior to the event and have a walk-through about how the day will go. Instead of anticipating actions, one must have ‘seen’ it in his head the day before. Shooting Ijeoma and Uzoma’s wedding was a party. The reception venue was some very popular place in GRA, Port Harcourt. Actually, it was a large tent in the middle of plots of land. Now how much should that cost, you may say? But this tent was on the posh side of town-the governor Rotimi Amaechi lived next door. Placement is everything. The decorator was the photographer’s darling! I loved the sparkling lights that allowed glitters to appear in people’s eyes. Everyone seemed animated, bubbling with life at that reception. The tables were packed with drinks and the food was awesome. There were so many young people-friends of the couple. They had all come to ‘parry!’ Sir Waks had taken his time to get married, and we were all delighted to meet his bride. You see, I and Sir Waks had grown up together. We even attended the same secondary school-Federal Government College, Okigwe, and University of Nigeria. When I was much younger, I recall running away from home to their house in Prefab extension because of a misunderstanding with my parents. I ran away when my mom wanted to flog me for something I was innocent of. I think I returned home the next day. Uzoma’s dad (God rest his soul), a medical doctor by profession had been very helpful to us when I fell from a tank as a child, and had to spend a year in hospital. He advised my parents about my treatment all the way. Uzoma is now a medical doctor, while his lawyer-wife works in a bank. I was delighted my man had finally made up his mind, and was just glad to be there. I would have been snapping at the event, even if I hadn’t been commissioned. The only difference may have been that I would not have gone to all the venues. It was a double honour, really, so I cut costs to make it less expensive for the couple. We were together from the day of the engagement pictures (for the souvenirs), through the court wedding, and even long after the wedding party. I am back at where I drifted away-the wedding party! The DJ was baaad! All our friends rocked the house. The couple did their traditional dances and then went to sit at their elevated positions to watch the entertainment. I caught beautiful shots of the bride with some of her friends from the bridal train watching it all. Uzoma also did some dancing, and a funny ‘one leg in the air, one hand pointing in the ceiling’ step. The babes wore flowing long gowns and 6 inched heels. At some point, I just realised I wanted everyone to stand taller, so I dropped to the ground to shoot the dancers. I had an enthusiastic, tall and dark dancer who gave some fine poses, and the occasional rockers who just danced and threw their bodies in all directions, as the alcohol and the familiar music blared full blast! D-girl’s husband and Adizua danced like ‘the thing wan expire’. The mamas were not left out. Their friends really joined in. I also caught some stoned, dazed faces doing giddy steps. We all missed Doctor Emma Nwakuche, Uzoma’s dad. I will forever remember him standing in church, always with a camera hanging on his shoulder. I don’t recall ever seeing him use it. It was like a fashion statement for him. I think of him every time I wear my Leica camera out. After the wedding party, we headed to a house on ‘the’ Moscow road ( a la Rivers State house of Assembly fracas that deposed the Speaker of the House). The house was just lovely; with a large screen suspended TV and a Bang and Olufsen surround system playing the songs we grew up with. The drinking continued-we were doing Moet and Hennessey like it was water and eating all the finger-food that wouldn’t stop coming out. It was at the second chairman’s house that the guys seemed to slow down completely on the alcohol, and Uzoma my man dozed off on the couch. I had started drinking at the first house on Moscow road and it must have gotten to me, because I forgot (and eventually lost) two camera lenses, a flash and my blackberry phone at the second house we went to. That is another rule in my list of never-never- don’t drink on the job, even if it is covering your friend’s wedding!

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