Dowds' Country Inn Outdoor Wedding Dance Floor at Dusk
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Dowds' Country Inn Outdoor Wedding Dance Floor at Dusk

In this image, taken at Dowd’s Country Inn in Lyme, New Hampshire, we were able to capture the wedding venue, the outdoor dance floor, a giant tree, and the moon against the sky at dusk, all in one photo.


An uncovered, outdoor dance floor provides guests the opportunity to party the night away in beautiful weather under a clear New England sky. We have worked in spaces that were open on four sides and under a tent, but a completely open and uncovered reception area, including all of the tables in the back, is fairly rare. Personally, we love being able to experience a beautiful early August evening in the Upper Valley, as it takes full advantage of what the region has to offer in the summer. If someone were to try this in Florida during the month of August they would be bringing in misting fans, serving ice cream for five courses, and potentially have IV bags full of fluids on hand. The temperature slowly dropped about fifteen degrees during this reception with a cool breeze blowing between the mountains. If you gave it your all on the dance floor and started to feel hot, you could literally take two steps in any direction, cool off for a minute, and get right back into the action. We know for a fact you could do this even if you were strapped to the teeth with photographic equipment.

A completely outdoor reception may limit some photographers when it comes to creating interesting light, but our off camera lighting system shines in these elements, both figuratively and literally. Unsurprisingly, the easiest way to light people on a dance floor is to aim a flash at them. One of the easiest ways to get soft light fairly consistently is to aim the flash at the ceiling and let the light bounce down onto your subjects. There is no ceiling here and just aiming a flash at someone gives the look of an overly lit subject against a black background. This is perfectly fine for a few images, especially when the dance floor is basically empty. We prefer full dance floors, boiling over with energy, so we implement a system of remote light sources, controlled from our cameras to document these hullabaloos. This lighting system also allows us to do what is displayed in this image, despite balancing light from four different sources. The light from the windows and outdoor lights is constant, so we have to work around that first. Incorporating the night sky to add a bit of color and silhouette the tree meant we had to be in the right place at a specific time, based on the rapidly vanishing level of glow in the sky nearly an hour past sunset. The third lighting element is the string lights hanging over the dance floor, which we of course want to be more prominent since they are specific to the wedding and not just the venue. When all three of those are working in concert, a resulting image would have produced a great shot with the sky, an outline of the venue, and festive points of light above dark outlines of people. We want to do more than that, so we placed our lights near the four corners of the dance floor and adjusted the power of each to work in concert with the other lighting elements. This is how you can see everyone clearly on the dance floor while maintaining all of those other aspects and not trying to combine a bunch of images on a computer, usually resulting in somewhat fake looking photos. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Location: The Dowds' Country Inn and Event Center, 9 Main St, Lyme, NH 03768.

1/30; f/4.0; ISO 2000; 24.0 mm.