• Back lit
  • calm
  • Evening
  • lower thirds
  • Natural
  • natural frames
  • Natural Light
  • outdoors
  • Playful
  • Rim Light
  • Rule of thirds
  • silhouette
  • Sunset
  • Trees
  • Walking
  • Wide

The story behind the image

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New Zealand’s experience of the pandemic has been, for want of a better word, choppy. We have had months on end without a single case in the country, and we have had several months-along lockdowns. Operating as as wedding photographer during this time has been, well, choppy.

In spite of endless wedding date changes and cancellations and the frustration associated with that, there have also been some great times too. Many weddings DID proceed, and others proceeded in unique ways. Elopements, micro-weddings, and 2-3 part weddings become commonplace. In a way, the pandemic has been good for the wedding industry. It’s turned tradition on its head. It’s thinned the field of bad actors. It’s shown us all what’s possible when you are forced to decide what is important to you.

This engagement shoot was during one of the partial lockdowns. The couple were from the USA and were in New Zealand working in the Auckland hospital. They took an afternoon off and met me at the ferry terminal to travel to Waiheke Island, a popular vineyard-centric island 45 minutes from Auckland.

The exact location is at the far end of the island, and it was the first time I had been there. It was a real photographer’s playground, with 360 degree views, trees, rocks, and rolling hills. Of course, we timed the shoot for the hour before sunset.

Some shoots just work so well. Things go your way, the couple are natural with one another, the weather cooperates, and the light plays ball. This was one of those shoots. This particular image has been given several accolades, but there are so many more from this shoot that are just as epic.

This was taken near the end of the shoot right as the sun was going down. It’s a good example of how it takes much more than one strong element to make a strong image. This image has the trinity of moment, light and composition.
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Describe how you spoke to your subject(s)

While my approach is very unposed, I’m constantly talking to the couple, cheering them on and encouraging them. I would have asked Arun to jump up onto that rock. I would have made sure I was in place with my composition dialed in, then would have asked Lauren to go join him on the rock. From there, the exact moment happened naturally. I would have taken 20+ frames of her making her way up the rock, then many more once they were on the rock. But as often happens, the best images are the in-between moments; the moments that are the most natural.

My approach to direction is to make it as informal as possible. To almost hide my directions in regular conversation. So we would have been talking about something irrelevant to the shoot, and I would have asked Arun to head up onto that rock, then carried on with the conversation. The less the couple are in their own heads, the better, so I try to minimise directions; I want to avoid every reminding them that this is a photoshoot. I want them to feel like they’re enjoying an amazing sunset with their love. I want my presence to be a by-the-by, not a hindrance.

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What did you say?

“Arun, lets have you head up on to that rock! That’s perfect! Lauren, make your way up to meet him! Perfect you guys!”

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Tone of Directions



A couple of key features of this composition are:

1. nothing is competing with the couple. They are in negative space, where there is loads of contrast around them, so they can draw the eye.
2. the horizon line is intentionally low in their bodies, so it isn’t competing with their heads.
3. the rock on the left, the couple, and the rock on the right following the rule of thirds
4. the couple and the ground is locked to the very bottom of the frame to allow for the grandeur of the trees to shine forth. If I had stood up, the trees would not have looked as big.

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Lower Thirds


Describe how you spoke to your subject(s)

Any time I’m shooting into bright sunlight, the camera’s autofocus becomes less accurate and reliable. As long as the couple is not moving toward me or away from me, I can address this by focusing once carefully by using live view and zooming in, then putting the camera in manual focus mode.

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Focus Mode

Manual Focus

Focus POints

Single Point

Focused on

the Groom

Equipment &

Nikon D850
Sigma 24mm 1.4 Art
1/4,000 @ f/1.4 ISO80 WB-Auto

The way the EXIF is written out follows the common photographic method (with the inclusion of White Balance at the end). Here it is broken down:

Shutter Speed @ Aperture ISO White Balance.

Light & Weather

I have set my exposure for the blue sky, not the subject. Since the subject is backlit, they become dark. The girl’s skin on the side facing the sun is roughly the same brightness as the sky, so you can see a hint of her face, as well as a little bit of light showing through her skirt.

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Light Type

Natural Light

Time of day




Editing Workflow

How did you edit this image?

This was edited in Lightroom using a custom preset. The white balance has been warmed up considerably, the saturation of the blue has been reduced, and a gradient has been added to the bottom of the frame to reduce the exposure of the grass so it doesn’t draw the eye.

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Editing Software
Preset Used
own custom preset


This shot was very straight forward and I didn’t face any major challenges with it. It helps to always keep up the compliments and words of encouragement as it makes the couple feel really, really good. And in the end, they trust you more.

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It’s all about communication and keeping the vibes positive. When you couple feel good with you, they trust you more. That allows them to relax with each other and how you can capture truly authentic moments.

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Location Name

Waiheke Island

Location aDDRESS

Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand

Loation Type



New Zealand

The key to pulling of a shot like this is choosing a location and composition where there is a huge amount of contrast around the subject. They need to be very dark relative to the sky or whatever is behind them. This works less well on an overcast day, since the sky is less bright. Bright sunny days are perfect.

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