Pleasantdale Chateau Wedding Photography
Susan Stripling Photography

Pleasantdale Chateau Wedding Photography

In 2011 Hurricane Irene hit the northeast right on top of a popular wedding weekend. 

One of my clients had to reschedule her event (luckily I was able to travel to Hawaii to photograph her wedding when their plans were reconfigured!) but my other clients for that weekend decided to persevere and have their wedding regardless of weather! 

Pleasantdale Chateau in West Orange, New Jersey, opened its’ arms to the bride and groom and made sure that everyone was well cared for despite the ominous skies and relentless rain. 

While I would have loved to photograph the bride and groom on the perfectly manicured lawns of the Chateau the weather kept us indoors for the entire day. 

One of my skills as a wedding photographer is the ability to make beautiful images in any given scenario, even if there is a hurricane traveling straight towards us! 

I was able to work with the exquisitely appointed interiors of Pleasantdale Chateau and combine that with the weak light filtering in through the windows to make gorgeous indoor portraits for the bride and groom. 

By the end of the night the party was in full swing and when my coverage drew to a close I knew that I wanted to make one more picture before packing up my gear and venturing into the rain. 

The wedding cake had been placed right next to a set of gorgeous glass doors and I had my assistant stand just to the side of the cake with our video light in order to illuminate the cake even further. I went outside and stood in the rain in order to photograph the rain streaking down the glass. 

My desire was to show the wild weather outdoors juxtaposed against the warmth of the celebration indoors. This was one of my favorite photographs of 2011 and was well worth getting totally soaked in the rain to make it!

I used to run a wedding photography education blog called The Dynamic Range.  I wrote a series of reviews of my experience with prints in the WPPI 16x20 Print Competition, and I wrote a write-up of this particular image!  The description of the judging process, my score, and how I felt read as follows:
This image, shot in 2011 and entered into the Wedding Details category of the WPPI 16x20 print competition in 2012,is *not* a competition print.
Is it a good image?  Oh yes, it's a good image.  The colors are great. The vantage point is killer - Hurricane Irene was raging outside, and I stepped into the rain to shoot through water-streaked windows at the warm, beautiful scene indoors.  Do I love this image?  I do.  I really, really do.  It's one of my favorite images from 2011, but it's not a good competition image.
Why not?  For a competition image to really sing, it needs to tell a clear, clean story.  This is a distracting story.  Why?
1.  The cake is way too bright, with detail lost in the right side.
2.  The lines of the window aren't straight, giving the viewer an off-kilter feeling.
3.  The chair to the left of the cake is distracting.
4.  The cake is busy, the room is busy, the windows are busy, it's all just *too busy*.
What could I have done to improve the image?
1.  Move my light further from the cake, softening the brightness.
2.  Darken down the cake in post, if I didn't move the light during capture.
3.  Not enter it in competition. (I mean, I'm being honest here.)
It's a great image, I love it, my clients love it, the venue loved it, I proudly show it with my name attached to it.  I should not have entered it into competition, because I let my personal feelings about taking it cloud my judgement.  It was a tricky circumstance, and I made a clever image.  That doesn't mean it should have been entered into a competition.
It scored a 76, meaning that it's on the low end of average.  That's a proper score (although...ouch).  Next time I entered the Wedding Details category, I made sure that the story was a clearer one.  Come back tomorrow and I'll share a Detail competition image that got it right!

Location: 757 Eagle Rock Ave, West Orange, NJ 07052.

Keywords: Pleasantdale Chateau (6), West Orange (6). 1/80; f/4.0; ISO 6400; 24.0 mm.