A lot stood out about this farm-style wedding in Massachusetts, but one big thing was just how DIY the couple and their families went to celebrate their wedding. Lead photographer Cara Brostrom and associate shooter Hannah Gunnell of Wonderbliss were there to capture it as it unfolded. “Emily and Tyson’s late summer wedding was one of the most unique and moving celebrations we have ever been privileged to witness,” Brostrom says.
“The couple was married at The Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts, a working farm devoted to teaching agriculture to both children and adults,” the New England-based photographer explains. “Tyson works at The Farm School, and agriculture is deeply important to the couple, as evidenced by the care they put into the menu. Nearly everything that Emily and Tyson served to their guests was grown or raised by them. They raised the chickens, Tyson grew the vegetables, a good friend brewed all the beer, and Emily even made the cheese for the cocktail hour from a herd of goats she raised and milked herself!”
The couple’s efforts aside, there was also an incredible sense of community at this wedding, Brostrom says. “Guests prepared and brought the desserts that were shared at the reception, and instead of hiring a florist, the bride and groom invited attendees to bring them flowers from their own gardens, which were then arranged into gorgeous, wild bouquets and centerpieces by Emily’s mother. Throughout the day, friends and farmhands joyfully helped to set up decorations, move chairs, and cook and serve food.” All of this, of course, meant Brostrom and Gunnell would need to take as many detail shots as possible to document all of the homegrown love, which they definitely covered.
“When working in the elements like this, it is really important to understand the direction and quality of light for your region, and how it will change throughout the day,” Brostrom explains. “When I am making my timeline with the couple, I need to know the exact hour of sunset, but I also need to know the quality of that sunset—is it a long and bright June evening, or is it a brief and golden October dusk?” Knowing how to deal with these different lighting situations comes partly from experience, but Brostrom also advises to scout the location as much as possible on the day of the wedding, with the help of “an augmented reality sun tracking app,” she says, like Sun Seeker.
When it came to the couple’s portraits, Brostrom took them on a walk around the farm to locations she’d scouted ahead of time. With bright sunlight overhead, she’s got a little trick: “I like to walk with my hand stretched out in front of me,” she says, “the back of my hand towards my face. I turn with my arm out like this and watch how the light plays off the back of my hand. This is a simple trick that helps me find where to place and how to face my subjects. I had my associate stand in for a moment while I tested the light on a few frames. It was nice for the couple to have those moments to hang back and talk together and reflect on all that is happening. We were in the garden and we could hear the party happening, but there was a thicket of raspberry bushes between us and the guests. It was verdant and lush and made for some wonderful portraits.”
Afterward, the couple joined their guests for dinner under the reception tent. “During the reception at the farm, there was light coming into the tent strongly from the West,” Brostrom explains. “The bride was singing at the edge of the tent with intense backlighting, her brother was outside the tent playing his guitar, and guests were watching from inside. Each subject required a unique camera response. In this situation, I am only as good as my relationship with my piece of technology. It must be like a fifth limb, a sensitive, thinking device powered by me.
“I find that in difficult back lighting, with an unpredictable series of events and moments to observe and photograph, shooting aperture priority and dialing up and down with exposure compensation helps me to shoot and watch and think in a way that flows. Other parts of the wedding day, such as portrait-making or preparations, allow me more mental space to shoot thoughtfully in manual mode.”
“A photograph is evidence of an experience, and in the end it will be the experiences I remember the most,” Brostrom says. “So I slept in my tent in the bride and groom’s backyard, and in the morning I was greeted by the newlywed’s goats, dewy grass and a big cup of coffee.”
IN THE GEAR BAG
Cameras: Canon 5D Mark IIIs
Lenses: 50mm f/1.2L, 85mm f/1.2L and 70-200mm f/2.8L